13 December 2008

Designing Assessment To Support Students' Learning

It has been reported that the single most power influence for student achievement is feedback (Hattie, 1987; Black & William, 1998). But it is not just any plain ol' feedback. Informative, timely, concise feedback from the instructors, and feedback which the students actually read and follow up on, are what really count. As such, conducting assessment and providing feedback is an art. Assessment can be enormously expensive, and can be perceived as ineffective and a poor representation of student learning. Gibbs and Simpson (2005) come up with a list of 10 plausible conditions under which assessment supports learning.
  1. Sufficient assessed tasks are provided for students to capture sufficient study time.
  2. These tasks are engaged with by students, orienting them to allocate appropriate amounts of time and effort to the most important aspects of the course.
  3. Tackling the assessed task engages students in productive learning activity of an appropriate kind.
  4. Sufficient feedback is provided, both often enough and in enough detail.
  5. The feedback focuses on students' performance, on their learning and on actions under the students' control, rather than on the students themselves and on their characteristics.
  6. The feedback is timely in that it is received by students while it still matters to them and in time for them to pay attention to further learning or receive further assistance.
  7. Feedback is appropriate to the purposes of the assignment and to its criteria for success.
  8. Feedback is appropriate, in relation to students' understanding of what they are supposed to be doing.
  9. Feedback is received and attended to.
  10. Feedback is acted upon by the student.

Hatte, J.A. (1987). Identifying the salient facets of a model of student learning: a synthesis of meta-analyses, International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 11, pp. 187-212.

Black, P. & William, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning, Assessment in Education, vol. 5, no. 1, pp 7-74.

Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2005). Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students' Learning, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Issue 1, pp. 3 - 31.

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