Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thinking about feedback

I've been thinking about feedback quite a lot recently (more about that later, as circumstances permit). Two papers just published in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education set me pondering. The first paper is purely theoretical, but I found it quite stimulating:

Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2012, 1-15
Student feedback is a contentious and confusing issue throughout higher education institutions. This paper develops and analyses two models of feedback: the first is based on the origins of the term in the disciplines of engineering and biology. It positions teachers as the drivers of feedback. The second draws on ideas of sustainable assessment. This positions learners as having a key role in driving learning, and thus generating and soliciting their own feedback. It suggests that the second model equips students beyond the immediate task and does not lead to false expectations that courses cannot deliver. It identifies the importance of curriculum design in creating opportunities for students to develop the capabilities to operate as judges of their own learning.

Unfortunately from this, although I agree completely with the principles espoused, it's not easy to see how to achieve this in practice. The second paper is an actual case study:

Feedforward strategies in the first-year experience of online and distributed learning environments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2012, 1-11
Feedforward is an educational strategy focusing on providing students with prior exposure to, and prior practise with assessment in order to clarify expectations and standards. Current research into feedforward has yet to fully consider the specificity of online and distributed learning environments. We have developed a feedforward-based approach to teaching a large first year prerequisite course in screen history involving the modified and critical use of exemplars and assessment guidance in ways designed to stimulate self and peer assessment throughout the course. Our focus is the improvement of task compliance, quality and criteria in order to stimulate meaningful engagement with assessment and enhanced student performance in the unit.

"Unfortunately it has also been our experience that the provision of ‘model’ assessment items seems to encourage ‘rote’ imitation and – in the worst cases – outright plagiarism."

I read this, but the lack of detail left me none the wiser how to actually implement what the authors are describing - frustrating.

Why is feedback so hard?

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