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Assessment Compact Good Practice Exemplars

Encouraging students to engage with feedback

Encouraging students to engage with feedback

What’s the story?

This example illustrates an intervention designed to encourage students to actively use feedback on one assignment to improve their next assignment. The intervention is simple, using a slightly modified assignment brief, a modified assignment cover sheet and compulsory individual tutorials to support students to use their feedback.

Module Information

Faculty: HSS
Department: History, Philosophy and Religion
Module name and Code: : U67774 In Cold Blood: Violence in the Modern Era
Level: 6
Number of students: approx. 10
Module leader: Prof Anne-Marie Kilday
Contact details:

Aspects of the assessment compact scrutinised in this case study

This case study concerns an intervention concentrating on two Compact clauses:

Clause 2.5 – students are given supportive, constructive and timely feedback as an essential part of their learning … and have a clear sense of what they need to do to improve, with subsequent opportunities provided to act on the feedback and to put the advice given into practice

Clause 2.6 – activities (e.g. marking exercises, self and peer-assessment, etc.) specifically designed to involve students in assessment, to encourage dialogue between students and their tutors, and students and their peers, and to develop their abilities to make their own informed judgments (assessment literacy).

What aim(s) did you have in changing your assessment approach?

The aim of this intervention was to encourage students to actively engage with feedback on an assignment, using that feedback to improve the next one.

What change(s) did you actually make?

The key innovation introduced related to feedback on written assessments. Module leader Anne-Marie Kilday wanted to find a way to encourage students to engage with feedback from one assignment and use it in the second assignment to improve their mark. What she did was make engaging with feedback from the first assignment a criterion that would be marked in the second. Coupled to this, the students (aided by mandatory tutorials) had to identify three specific pieces of feedback that they were going to work on in the longer essay and to note these on a modified cover sheet.

How did you evaluate this intervention?

The module leader, Anne-Marie Kilday, analysed data from the end of module evaluation survey, along with student performance data.

What do students say about this intervention?

It is sufficient to let the students tell you, the reader, what they thought of this intervention. Among the comments on this innovation from the students on the module were:

  • I felt the tutors on this course actually cared about us doing well. We were given lots of support to improve our marks and I really appreciated all the help we got.
  • This was the first time I had looked at what was written. Normally I just look at the mark. The module really helped me with my essay writing and the structure of my work in particular.
  • I thought being forced to come for a tutorial was patronising. However, when I went along I found it very useful and would prefer more of this kind of contact time.
  • The way the assessment worked on this module really made me focus attention on how to improve the longer essay. My seminar leaders have said the same criticisms to me for years, but it made a real difference knowing that on this module I would be marked for paying attention to the feedback I was given.
  • I always throw my essays in the bin once I have looked at the mark, as the feedback means nothing when the module is over. I can see now that at least some of the stuff they tell you can be used in other essays and that we can actually improve our mark if we bother to.
  • My seminar leader was the first person to spend any length of time with me with regard to my essay writing and I am in my third year. I always feel I am hassling lecturers when I come to office hours asking for help. On this module it was so brilliant, because we were forced to come for help and I feel more confident about doing that in the future.
  • Until this module I had never come for a tutorial. We had to have one on this module and I wasn’t happy about it. But I learnt stuff I probably should have learnt in first year. Like I learnt that I was referencing things wrong and this was costing me marks.
  • I feel that I made a real step forward in addressing problems with my essays that I should have sorted out but could never really be bothered to. Okay, so we were made to do it, but because we were all going through this process and realised it wasn’t a witch-hunt, it was the most really valuable thing I did during my degree, especially as I am about to start writing my dissertation.
  • The module helped me structure my essays better which has been a problem for ages, since at School. The compulsory meeting with my seminar leader was so useful I couldn’t stop thinking about it after.

What has been the impact of this change in assessment?

These comments reveal previous practices by students that are not aligned with the student responsibilities in the Compact. They show that not only could these behaviours be changed with surprisingly simple tweaks to the existing assessment regime, but after initial resistance students praised the approach.
The student comments emphasise the relational dimension of assessment, with a wish for greater opportunity for staff and students to work together integrating assessment and learning and taking a joint responsibility for assessment.
Anne-Marie comments that the intervention worked very well, with many students reporting that this was the first time they had ever read the feedback they had been given on their work!
Pleasingly, following this first intervention 52% of students improved their mark in the final essay over that in the first. That trend has continued, with 60% of the 2012/13 cohort improving their mark in the final essay over that in the first. Anne-Marie comments that despite this success, students still struggle with the second, long essay, whether they have taken on board the feedback or not.

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