Using technology to close the feedback loop

A commonly reported issue is the difference in student and staff perceptions of feedback: students, as evidenced by the NSS and other research, do not feel that they receive enough useful feedback whereas staff believe that students do not make effective use of the feedback they receive (and indeed there is evidence that much feedback goes uncollected e.g. Weaver 2006).

A number of projects have investigated the use of technology to support the last (and/or indeed the first) stage in the continuous assessment and feedback life-cycle ‘Reflecting’. Here are just a few examples:

Example 1

The University of Westminster undertook the Making Assessment Count (MAC) project with the aim of transforming the student experience of assessment by engaging them in the process of reflection on feedback for learning and development as part of the University’s personal tutoring scheme. Students kept a learning journal in which they reflected upon their feedback supported by question prompts from an online tool known as e-Reflect. The outcomes are summarised in the project report and a MAC toolkit is available to other institutions. A follow-up project Making Assessment Count Evaluation ( MACE) piloted the approach in other institutions. The stand-alone nature of the e-Reflect tool was felt to be a barrier to take up at Westminster and elsewhere and a subsequent project was developed to make e-Reflect LTI compliant in order that institutions could connect e-Reflect to their LMS or other relevant LTI (IMS Learning Tools Interoperability) compliant systems (e.g. PebblePad).

Example 2

The University of Dundee interACT project placed great emphasis on creating the conditions for dialogue around feedback: ‘Neglecting dialogue can lead to dissatisfaction with feedback. The transmission model of feedback ignores these factors and importantly the role of the student in learning from the feedback. Simply providing feedback does not ensure that students read it, understand it, or use it to promote learning.’ Interventions on a PG online programme in medical education included the requirement for students to submit a (compulsory) cover sheet with each assignment reflecting on how well they think they have met the criteria and indicating how previous feedback has influenced this assignment. Following feedback from the tutor they are then invited to log onto a wiki (this is optional) and include a reflection on the following four questions:

1.How well does the tutor feedback match with your self-evaluation?

2.What did you learn from the feedback process?

3.What actions, if any, will you take in response to the feedback process?

4.What if anything is unclear about the tutor feedback?

The project evaluation report found that these activities promoted desirable behaviours in both students and tutors and that participants detected a qualitative improvements in learning.

Example 3

Edinburgh College of Art wanted to involve students directly in assessment wherever possible to develop a shared-responsibility and partnership model of learning. However the nature of the subjects studied means that they face particular issues in that students often have difficulty in understanding what is actually being assessed and seeing that it is not the subjective ‘likes or dislikes’ of their tutor(s) that determines the outcome.

‘[The] requirement from level one for students to be innovative, original, think laterally, take risks, get things wrong, before beginning to consistently develop highly-personalised and often unique and original qualities in their work is a highly-prized characteristic of education in art and design. The approach to assessment and feedback needs, therefore, to be designed to support this frequently ‘erratic’ journey without students perceiving assessment as a barrier, a hurdle or a punitive or negative experience.’

The off-the-shelf VLE in use at the time was not well suited to creative subjects and the decision was taken to create a bespoke integrated communications system. A 2011 report evaluated the success of the first year of operation

‘Without the development of digital spaces to provide a framework to support learning and assessment online, the mutually interactive model of engaging students with feedback and assessment in a studio-based pedagogy would be logistically (and arguably financially) unsustainable.

The provision of online digital spaces now provides a facilitative environment for students and staff to engage effectively in developing meaningful feedback with mutual responsibility and with the potential to enhance and accelerate learning and understanding – watch this space!’

Example 4

In a project entitled ‘Technology, Feedback, Action!‘ Sheffield Hallam University evaluated how a range of technical interventions might encourage students to engage with their feedback and formulate actions to improve future learning. The project found that delivering feedback electronically offered considerable benefits including greater control for students over how and when they reviewed their feedback and electronic storage made it more likely that students would revisit the feedback in future. The project also tried out ‘adaptive release’ whereby students were required to engage with their feedback before receiving their grade. The study found that: ‘ … feedback before grades has real learning benefits and that the reverse is also true (i.e. giving grades before feedback diminishes opportunities for learning benefits).’ The project has produced a range of resources including a 10 minute guide for senior managers and guidance for staff and students.

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  1. Pingback: 8. Reflecting | Electronic Management of Assessment

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