Designing student learning by promoting formative assessment
Bone, Alison (2007) Designing student learning by promoting formative assessment In: CLT Research Conference, 19 Oct 2007, Brighton, UK. (Unpublished)
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Introduction. This paper addresses the challenge of engaging students in assessment which will promote their learning but which does not ‘count’ towards their final grade in a subject – i.e. ‘pure’ formative assessment. Context. The recent National Student Survey has again indicated that both feedback and assessment are areas where students feel that improvements could be made. Qualitative research on the value of feedback to students has been undertaken, albeit generally on a small scale (Higgins et al., 2002; Orsmond et al., 2005). Another small-scale national survey involving law students in 2005 investigated the provision of formative assessment opportunities for students to enable them to receive feedback and found that comparatively few were given ‘pure’ formative assessment although the majority felt it would have been of benefit to them (Bone, 2006). As a result of these findings it was decided there would be value in conducting more focused research into the take-up of ‘pure’ formative assessment in an undergraduate law programme. Research process / methodology. A pilot study involving 55 students on a final year law module at the University of Brighton was conducted in 2006/2007. Students were invited to submit 500 words online by way of a sample of a 2000-word piece of coursework which would later be summatively assessed. They were told they would be given brief feedback (again online) covering both style and content. Only 12 students decided to submit such a sample. The whole group then completed individual questionnaires about why they had (or had not) decided to submit a sample, how they used any feedback they had received and their perceptions of the value of this formative assessment. Similar research on a larger scale in the current academic year is being conducted using second and final year law students. A questionnaire will be used and it is also intended to use focus groups to gather student views. Findings. This paper will discuss the detailed findings of the pilot study and preliminary issues relating to the large-scale survey. The majority who took the opportunity to do the assessment found it helpful but there was a range of reasons as to why – and indeed why the minority did not find it helpful. Those who did not do it cited time as the critical factor. Implications and transferability. Setting formative assessment for students may raise false expectations in that students may expect very detailed feedback that will provide firm guidance on later assessment. There are also resource implications since if the take-up rate is high providing useful feedback is very time-consuming.
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