3. Supporting

This component of the life-cycle looks specifically at supporting students in the period between setting and submission of assignments (i.e. while they are in the process of completing an assignment) and is thus separate from the more general support that is needed for the business processes and technologies throughout the life-cycle (although it does have a relationship with the broader digital literacies agenda for both staff and students).

There is a need to develop students’ assessment literacies to allow them to understand the process of constructive alignment and making academic judgements. Again EMA can have a role to play e.g. in engaging students with the thinking behind online marking rubrics and in providing them with an overview of their learning pathway in order to help them understand how what they learn from one assignment can feed into future assignments and their overall longitudinal development. Although not a technology issue, the point was made that there is a need for a holistic overview to avoid complications such as terminology issues whereby staff use variants of terms such as rubrics/marks sheet/cover sheet etc and sometimes the same words for different things.

At this stage support activities might include things like assignment tutorials, submission of drafts and related provision of feedback. MMU has used the supporting phase on some courses to provide regular formative MCQ quizzes linked to tutorials for feedback purposes. The students take the test in their own time and take printouts of their responses to tutorials (or use their own laptops). This also serves to get the students used to the functionality of the quiz tools that they will be using in their summative MCQ examinations.

Such activities need to be built into the overall assessment strategy design (particularly in the context of formative assessment) but also require consideration in relation to technical aspects of EMA. As an example Turnitin can be setup to allow draft submission and feedback on work in progress but, on trying to use this facility, MMU realised that this led to problems identifying when the student had actually made a final submission. In this case a solution was identified by setting up different submission boxes to support formative (draft) and summative submissions for a specific assignment.

The above implies a possible series of iterative loops between stages 3 and 5 as drafts are submitted. There is also an iterative link between this stage and stage 7 as students need to be supported in using and interpreting feedback. Students will read the feedback in the light of the overall mark and it needs to be clear that they understand the criteria etc. The feedback on a percentage mark of 56% might be very different for two individuals. A high mark but not so good feedback or a low mark but quite positive feedback might relate to an ipsative view of the student’s progress. See also the discussion on anonymity in relation to this topic – how much do we need to know about our learners in order to give appropriate feedback?

Personal tutoring is sometimes a means of ensuring that a student’s longitudinal development needs are catered for whilst still preserving features such as anonymity. This does however require systems that allow a personal tutor to see a full view of feedback.

MMU guidance on Supporting.

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