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Assessment for learning: the benefits


Assessment for learning: the benefits of generating feedback David Nicol Professor of Higher Education Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE] – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Assessment for learning: the benefits

  • Assessment for learning the benefits
  • of generating feedback
  • David Nicol
  • Professor of Higher Education
  • Centre for Academic Practice and Learning
    Enhancement (CAPLE
  • Director, Peer project (
  • University of Strathclyde, Scotland
  • University of Cadiz, March 9-11, 2011

  • Background
  • Re-engineering Assessment Practices (REAP)
  • Concepts and example of practice
  • Institutional considerations
  • PEER project
  • Discussion

  • Departments and faculties educational
    improvement projects, including REAP project
  • Policy/strategy development of educational
    policy and principles of assessment feedback
    (based on REAP)
  • Students Feedback as dialogue campaign
  • Quality procedures redesigning course
    documentation and review procedures
  • PEER project developing students ability to
    evaluate the quality of each others work
  • See

REAP Re-engineering Assessment Practices
  • Scottish Funding Council for Universities (1m)
  • 3 Universities - Strathclyde, Glasgow Glasgow
  • Large 1st year classes (160-600 students)
  • A range of disciplines (19 modules 6000
  • Many technologies online tests, simulations,
    discussion boards, e-portfolios, e-voting,
    peer/feedback software, VLE, online-offline
  • Learning quality and teaching efficiencies
  • Assessment for learner self-regulation

Background (1)
  • Gibbs, G. Simpson, C (2004) Conditions under
    which assessment supports students learning,
    Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1,
  • See
  • Formative Assessment in Science Teaching (FAST)
    project at http//

Gibbs and Simpson (2004)
  • Assessment tasks Conditions 1-4
  • Capture sufficient study time (in and out of
  • Are spread out evenly across timeline of study
  • Lead to productive activity (deep vs surface)
  • Communicate clear and high expectations
  • i.e concern here is with time on task how much
    work students do - their active engagement in

Background (2)
  • Literature Review
  • Nicol, D. Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative
    assessment and self-regulated learning A model
    and seven principles of good feedback practice.
    Studies in Higher Education, 34 (1), 199-218
  • Background
  • Student Enhanced Learning through Effective
    Feedback SENLEF project funded by HE Academy
  • REAP project

Rethinking assessment and feedback
  • 1. Consider self and peers as much as the teacher
    as sources of assessment and feedback
  • Tap into different qualities than teacher can
  • Saves time
  • Provides considerable learning benefits (lifelong
  • 2. Focus on every step of the cycle
  • Understanding the task criteria
  • Applying what was learned in action
  • 3. Not just written feedback
  • Also verbal, computer, vicarious, formal and

Seven principles of good feedback
  • Good feedback
  • Clarifies what good performance is (goals,
    criteria, standards).
  • Facilitates the development of reflection and
    self-assessment in learning
  • Delivers high quality information to students
    that enables them to self-correct
  • Encourages student-teacher and peer dialogue
    around learning
  • Encourages positive motivational beliefs self
  • Provides opportunities to act on feedback
  • Provides information to teachers that can be used
    to help shape their teaching (making learning
  • Source Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006)

Principle 1 Clarify what good performance is
(the context of dialogue)
  • Students create criteria
  • Students add own criteria
  • Students identify criteria from samples of work
  • Exemplars of different performance levels
  • Students rephrase criteria in own words
  • Provide document with criteria

Principle 2 Facilitate reflection and
self-assessment in learning
  • Students create MCQs including feedback for right
    and wrong (distractors) answers
  • Students self-assess using MCQs and confidence
  • Students self-assess own performance using online

Two meta principles
  • 1. Meta-PRINCIPLE 1 time and effort on task
    (structured engagement) i.e. steers on how much
    work to do and when Gibbs and Simpson 4
  • 2. Meta-PRINCIPLE 2 developing learner
    self-regulation (empowerment/self-regulation) i.e
    steers to encourage ownership of learning the
    seven principles discussed above.
  • Key task for teacher is to balance 1 and 2

  • Example
  • Psychology

  • 560 first year students
  • 6 topic areas (e.g. personality, classical
    conditioning), 48 lectures, 4 tutorials, 12
  • Assessment 2 x MCQs (25), tutorial attendance
    (4), taking part in experiment (5), essay exam

Problems identified
  • No practice in writing skills but required in the
  • More detail provided in lectures than mentioned
    in exams (not enough independent reading)
  • No feedback except on Multiple Choice Questions
    (percent correct)
  • Didnt want to increase staff workload

Psychology Redesign
  • Discussion board in Learning Management System
  • Students in 85 discussion groups of 7-8, same
    groups throughout year
  • Also open discussion board for class
  • Friday lectures cancelled discover material
  • Series of online tasks

Structure of group tasks
  • 6 cycles of 3 weeks (one cycle x major course
  • First week light written task (e.g. define
    terms) 7 short answers (all answer)
  • Second week guided reading
  • Week three deep written task students
    collaborate in writing a 700-800 word essay on
    the same topic.
  • Within each week
  • The Monday lecture introducing material
  • Immediately after lecture, task posted online
    for delivery the following Monday
  • Model answers (selected from students) posted for
    previous weeks task

The teaching role
  • Participation in the discussions was compulsory
    but not marked (in subsequent years there was 2
    mark for participation)
  • Course leader provided general feedback to the
    whole class often motivational
  • He encouraged students to give each other
  • The group discussions were not moderated but
    monitored for participation

An example of deep task
  • The Task 800 word essay
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Freuds
    and Eysencks theories of personality. Are the
    theories incompatible?
  • readings suggested
  • questions provided which all students should try

Relation to the Gibbs Simpsons four
assessment conditions
  1. Tasks require significant study out of class
    (condition 1)
  2. Tasks are distributed across topics and weeks
    (condition 2)
  3. They move students progressively to deeper levels
    of understanding (condition 3)
  4. There are explicit goals and progressive increase
    in challenge (condition 4)

Relation to 7 feedback principles
  • Standard format and model answers provide
    progressive clarification of expectations
    (principle 1)
  • Students encouraged to self-assess against model
    answer (principle 2)
  • Course leader provides motivational and
    meta-level feedback and selects model answers
    (principle 3)
  • Online peer discussion aimed at reaching
    consensus is core feature of design about
    response (principle 4)
  • Focus on learning not just marks, sense of
    control/challenge enhanced motivation
  • Repeated cycle of topics and tasks provide
    opportunities to act on feedback (principle 6)
  • VLE captures all interactions allowing course
    leader to monitor progress and adapt teaching
    (principle 7)

  • Students worked exceptionally hard
  • Written responses of exceedingly high standard
  • Students took responsibility for learning
  • High levels of motivation atmosphere in class
  • Online interactions showed powerful scaffolding
    and community building
  • Feedback with 560 students through peer and
    self-feedback (model answers)
  • Easy for tutors to monitor participation
  • Improved mean exam performance (up from 51-59,
    plt0.01) weaker students benefit most

Has it worked?
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Guidelines for Implementation
  1. A single principle or many?
  2. Tight-loose maintain fidelity to the principles
    (tight) but encourage disciplines to develop
    their own techniques of implementation (loose)
  3. Balance teacher feedback with peer and
    self-generated feedback
  4. Focus on developing students own ability for
    critical evaluation
  5. Create opportunities for learning communities
    to emerge
  6. The more actively engaged students are, the
    better the course design

Developments since REAP
  1. Principles of Assessment and Feedback approved by
    University Senate and embedded in policy (2008)
  2. Use of principles to inform curriculum renewal
    and Quality Assurance processes
  3. Feedback as Dialogue campaign to gain
    commitment of students
  4. PEER Project (Peer Evaluation in Education
  5. Work on the way we document our courses and

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Peer Review in Education Evaluation PEER
  • The aims of the PEER project are to
  • Review evidence base for peer review
  • Develop educational designs for peer review (and
  • Identify software support for peer review
  • Pilot implementations of peer review with large
    student numbers
  • Produce guidelines for higher education why do
    it, how to do it, pitfalls and solutions and
    software possibilities.
  • see http//

PEER Project Core Ideas
  • All graduate development in higher education
    requires that
  • Students learn to evaluate critically the quality
    and impact of their own work (e.g. academic
    texts, problem solutions, designs)
  • Students learn to evaluate critically the work of
    others (e.g. peer review and peer feedback)
  • Ref Nicol, D (2010) The foundation for graduate
    attributes developing self-regulation through
    self and peer assessment.

The research on peer feedback
  • Mainly about peers marking each others work
  • Where peer feedback is the focus it is usually
    about peers augmenting teacher feedback by
    increasing the quantity and variety of feedback

The focus of PEER project
  • Scenarios where students make evaluative
    judgements about the work of peers and provide a
    feedback commentary, usually written
  • Not talking about
  • .....collaborative tasks where students give
    each other informal feedback
  • .....scenarios where the focus is on students
    evaluating each others performance in group
  • .....scenarios where the focus is on students
    grading/marking each others work although some
    rating of performance might be part of the peer

Benefits of feedback construction (1)
  • Constructivist rather than transmission
  • Producing is cognitively more demanding than
    reading feedback from others students cannot be
  • Students actively exercise assessment criteria
    (process/reprocess) from many different
  • See how others tackle assignments and learn that
    quality can be produced in different ways
  • Develop writing skills through commentaries
  • Deepens critical thinking in the discipline

Benefits of feedback construction (2)
  • Learn to assess own work, to monitor and evaluate
    their own productions - same skills involved
  • Develops self-regulation for life beyond
  • Changes the power relationship in class (shares
    responsibility across students).
  • Can develop learning communities

Giving and receiving feedback
  • Giving and receiving feedback within same domain
    enriches the whole process.
  • Students are able to compare the feedback they
    receive with the feedback they produce
  • And learn how different reviewers perceive their
    work a single source of feedback is never
  • Can develop a sense of shared responsibility
    across students for learning

Example peer feedback
  • Students write essay on one topic from three
  • Each student provides feedback on three essays in
    another topic anonymously using rubric
  • The rubric write a short summary of the essay,
    comment on and rate (four point scale) the
    structure, arguments, evidence, writing, suggest
    ways of improving the essay.
  • Students receive peer reviews of their own essays
  • Then review, comment on and rate their own essay
    using same rubric.
  • Graded for participating in the task, for their
    own essay and for their review of it.
  • Finally students rate 3 reviews (on others work)
    and comment on how useful they think they would
    be to author.
  • Software used to support administration

Six learning opportunities in peer review
  • Producing the target assignment
  • Reviewing and producing peer feedback
  • Receiving feedback from peers
  • Responding to peer reviews (on own reviews of
    those given to others)
  • Self-reviewing ones own work (e.g. after peer
  • Receiving feedback from the teacher e.g. on the
    assignment, peer review or self-review
  • 1-3 comprise the essentials of peer review while
    4-6 are further options.

Principles of effective peer review
  • Peer review should
  • Engage students in active use of criteria and
  • Involve students in constructing commentaries in
    relation to peer judgements, not just marks
  • Lead to practice in both analytic (componential)
    and holistic (configurational) judgements about
  • Facilitate dialogue around the object and quality
    of the review
  • Ensure an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect
  • Integrate self-review activities within peer
    review designs
  • Ensure that making peer judgements is a regular
    activity and not a one-off event

Some of my Publications
  • Nicol, D (2010) The foundation for graduate
    attributes developing self-regulation thorugh
    self and peer assessment, QAA Enhancement Themes,
  • Nicol, D (2010) From monologue to dialogue
    Improving written feedback in mass higher
    education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher
    Education. 35(5), 501 -517
  • Nicol, D and Draper, S (2010) A blueprint for
    transformational organisational change in HE
    REAP as a case study, Published by the Higher
    Education Academy, UK (see website)
  • Nicol, D (2009) Transforming assessment and
    feedback Enhancing integration and empowerment
    in the first year, Published by Quality Assurance
    Agency, Scotland (http//
  • Nicol, D (2009), Assessment for learner
    self-regulation Enhancing achievement in the
    first year using learning technologies,
    Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education,
    34(3), 335-352
  • Nicol, D (2007), Laying the foundation for
    lifelong learning cases studies of technology
    supported assessment processes in large first
    year classes, British Journal of Educational
    Technology, 38(4), 668-678
  • Nicol, D (2007) E-assessment by design using
    multiple-choice tests to good effect, Journal of
    Further and Higher Education.31(1), 53-64.
  • Nicol, D. Milligan, C. (2006), Rethinking
    technology-supported assessment in relation to
    the seven principles of good feedback practice.
    In C. Bryan and K. Clegg, Innovations in
    Assessment, Routledge.
  • Nicol, D, J. Macfarlane-Dick (2006), Formative
    assessment and self-regulated learning A model
    and seven principles of good feedback practice,
    Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218.
  • See for copies.
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