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Assessment Compact Good Practice Exemplars

Feed forward and peer review in Education

Feed forward and peer review in Education

What’s the story?

Approximately 270 students take this module in nine tutor groups. It involves a mix of peer-assessment (before the first piece of coursework) and both summative and formative tutor assessment on that coursework before the second piece of coursework. Camtasia screencasts give access anytime support/guidance for coursework 1.

Module Information

Faculty: HSS
Department: School of Education
Module name and Code: P70309 Reflection and Criticality in Education
Level: 7
Number of students: 270
Module leader: Helen Wilson
Contact details:

Aspects of the assessment compact scrutinised in this case study

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

Clause 2.1 – “Assessment is central to the curriculum, and there should be no distinct boundary between assessment, teaching and learning. All academic staff will therefore be encouraged to regard assessment as a fundamental and integral part of programme design, and one that is intended to shape and develop learning, as much as to judge and measure it.”

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 main aims of this assessment design were to increase the frequency, quantity and quality of feedback students obtain on their work, to provide timely feed forward opportunities so that students can improve their summative assignments, and to improve dialogue about assessment with tutors and peers.

What change(s) did you actually make?

The first coursework is an annotated bibliography of literature that students use to research their topic. The second part synthesises students’ learning as a result of their research.
The students are asked to complete and print out one section of their annotated bibliography and bring it to a peer review session. Firstly they discuss what a reflective comment is and how to be supportive and to link always to the success criteria. They are then put in groups of five and do 'pass the parcel' with their extracts. By the end, each student will have read and commented on 5 other students' pieces of work and will also receive their work back with a set of reflective comments on it. The tutor is also available for questions about those comments at the end.
Then they submit part 1 of their assignment and receive that back before part 2 is due in. This module can be completed at level 7 or level 6; once part 1 is marked, students are given advice as to which level to submit part 2. Pleasingly, this year more than 95% of the cohort completed at level 7.

How did you evaluate this intervention?

The module was evaluated using an end of module survey. Two items were of specific relevance to the use of formative assignments using peer feedback. Many students also commented on assessment in the free response comments section.

What do students say about this intervention?

Students were asked to respond on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). There were 161 respondents.

Item statement Mean response value
I benefitted from the peer assessment exercise 2.92
I was able to use the feedback from part 1 of the assignment in part 2 2.83

At face value these means indicate a spread of responses around a median ‘neutral’ value (3). However, in the free response section that asked students to comment on three things they particularly valued about the module were comments such as these:

  • It enabled me to research an area in which I am interested
  • The jigsaw conference was useful and interesting
  • The peer assessment was valuable
  • Encouraging critical thinking
  • The first assignment was very clear because the tutors spent a lot of time showing us exactly what we needed to do - there was a lot of support for this assignment

What has been the impact of this change in assessment?

The objectives of providing timely feed forward opportunities, increasing the frequency of feedback opportunities and enhancing dialogue with peers and tutors about assessment were all achieved. The quality of the final coursework assignments was appreciably better than in previous years.
At the same time, while there were few specifically negative remarks about peer assessment, the mean value of 2.9 does point to a significant proportion of the student population who did not greatly value this aspect of their assessment. Further investigation is necessary to find out why. This may be the first time that students on this programme have taken part in peer assessment. Multiple experiences of well-structured peer review/assessment can more clearly demonstrate the benefits to students. As can be seen in several case studies here (e.g. see Formative feedback in the Architecture crit), while good structures for formative assessment may exist, the mechanics of implementation can be a challenge.

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