Saturday, 5 March 2016

MAF Preparation for Session #2 (Spring 2016): Assessment of- versus assessment for learning

It is argued that many students do not read or even access their feedback – many do not perceive the formative value of summative feedback, especially when a particular course of study is over. Typical practice sees feedback as correction, or justification, as opposed to dialogue – and we lecturers are offered little guidance on how to offer constructive and accessible feedback. Written feedback especially places the student in the role of passive recipient of judgement – no wonder that feedback is emotional.

It started with the prep
For our second MAF workshop, we explored the use of assessment of vs assessment for learning.  In preparation, we asked participants to:
READ sections 6 and 7 of our University Assessment Framework on 'Marking' (pp.28-32) and 'Feedback' (pp. 33-38) (
WATCH a short video on 'Assessment and feedback - dialogical and relational’ -  specifically at the one on the feedback process
ASK yourself: What do I feel I am already doing well in the way I mark and provide feedback to students? What are my biggest challenges when it comes to implementing effective marking and feedback practice? How confident do I feel that my students are able to make sense of and use feedback beneficially for their learning?  

Assessment of versus assessment for learning.  Discuss.
We opened with a short writing activity: Drawing directly on the pre-reading and viewing you have done for this class, write for 20 minutes on the above topic. You may wish to freewrite or brainstorm ideas first; Resources can be consulted directly, as in an open-book exam setting; Your writing will be peer-reviewed according to the MALTHE grading criteria.
A bit of a shock at first – these sorts of short, very focussed writing activities can be an excellent way of opening or closing a seminar – or even a lecture. They help students to learn through writing – and to learn that writing in this way is part of the learning process.

Peer Review
After the writing – we went into a peer review process – asking people to grade and give useful feedback on the writing – according to our module criteria. At first people only received the written feedback – and then we moved on to discuss the feedback.
Again we attempting to model the student experience – so that we could experience it ourselves in a very embodied and perhaps emotional way.
Unsurprisingly, in our session, everybody appreciated the opportunity to discuss the feedback – feeling typically that it was only in the discussion phase that real benefit was gained from the feedback process.
These days large class sizes make it extremely difficult to make class time available for this sort of dialogic encounter. It was suggested that audio-feedback could simulate this process to some extent – typically spoken feedback is experienced less negatively ( or at least may be engaged with differently (especially if the class itself is mainly taught online).
Another alternative used by several members of the group is to scaffold meaningful peer review – and to use this opportunity for timely, formative feedback. With peer review, the receiver of feedback a participant in process, not just a passive recipient. The process itself requires the receiver to engage with and act upon feedback – and the focus of feedback is on supporting learning, rather than justifying a mark. Moreover – this practice changes the feedback dynamic from one of correction – to the dialogic co-production of knowledge: The dialogic co-construction of knowledge is a particularly pertinent, though sometimes underrated element in academic knowledge production Olga Dysthe (2003).

Image Mediated Dialogue
Our next step was to use IMD to seed discussion on the experience of feedback: the giving and the receiving of it. IMD is dialogue mediated by an image – where participants choose their own image in response to prompt questions – here on the feedback experience – they then briefly WRITE a literal description of the picture – followed by a brief analysis of why it answers the questions; this is followed by discussion. At the end of the discussion we asked participants to write their conclusions and the implications for their practice of what they had covered.

Application to practice
Based on an exhaustive literature review, Gibbs & Simpson (2004) identified 11 conditions under which assessment best supports learning, 7 of which pertain to feedback:
  1. Sufficient feedback is provided, both often enough and in enough detail
  2. The feedback is provided quickly enough to be useful to students
  3. Feedback focuses on learning rather than on marks or students themselves
  4. Feedback is linked to the purpose of the assignment and to criteria
  5. Feedback is understandable to students, given their sophistication
  6. Feedback is received by students and attended to
  7. Feedback is acted upon by students to improve their work or their learning
Tip: take Principles 3, 5 and 7 – and after reflecting on the session as a whole WRITE what you might do in one of your modules so that feedback practices embody these principles.

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