Tuesday, 30 September 2014

enabling student consideration of instructor feedback

This paper in Higher Education considers the role of continuous assessment in student learning. Continuous assessment, if I understand it correctly, is simply assessing students throughout the term on their learning of the course content. This is in contrast to discontinuous assessment in which students might get assessed once or twice throughout the course (e.g. midterm and final exam - nothing else). Continuous assessment, might include weekly or even daily quizzes or assignments. The advantage of continuous assessment is that students can chart their development in mastering the course content. The problem with continuous assessment, however, is the marking load for instructors - if it is going to be effective for learning it needs to be accompanied by meaningful feedback - and that it commonly mixes formative and summative assessment. The assessments are used to both provide corrective feedback to students but are also counted as marks towards students' final grade. The effectiveness of the feedback thus seems to degrade with the summative aspect due to student performance anxiety. In addition, to be effective, continuous feedback must be timely: effectiveness decreases the longer the period of time between student completion of the work and their receipt of the feedback. Timely feedback is difficult in large classes but there are ways around this problem if marking/feedback is constructed such that it happens in-class rather than out of class. See Schinske & Tanner's article on marking and also this website on the use of IF AT forms.

One of the interesting things Hernández suggests is to have students consider the feedback and reflect on how they will use it to improve work on a subsequent assignment. Thus it brings in a metacognitive component in which students must consider how they will develop their ability to learn the material. It seems similar to me to the concept of exam wrappers in which students reflect on how they performed on an exam comparing the exam results to how they approach their studying and consider how they could improve or strengthen their learning process.

In the case of continuous feedback I can imagine having a post-assignment wrapper followed by an assignment wrapper:

  1. students submit their work for marking/feedback
  2. upon receipt of their graded work they write a reflection on how they will use the feedback to improve future work
  3. with the subsequent assignment students attach a short reflection indicating how the feedback from the previous assignment was actually used to improve the current assignment
Only problem with this is the extra marking and grading involved for instructors. But perhaps there is a way around that difficult by incorporating the wrappers into peer discussions. The point with the wrappers is not to create more marking for instructors, but rather to enable student consideration and incorporation of the feedback we provide them.


Dihoff, R., Brosvic, G. M., ML, M. L. E., & Cook, M. J. (2004). Provision of feedback during preparation for academic testing: learning is enhanced by immediate but not delayed feedback. The Psychological Record, 54(2), 207–231. Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/tpr/vol54/iss2/4/

Hern├índez, R. (2012). Does continuous assessment in higher education support student learning? Higher Education, 64(4), 489–502. doi 10.1007/s10734-012-9506-7

Schinske, J., & Tanner, K. (2014). Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(2), 159–166. doi:10.1187/cbe.CBE-14-03-0054

Weimer, M. (2010, July 29). Exam Wrappers. Faculty Focus - The Teaching Professor Blog. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/exam-wrappers/