Assessment and feedback

Sections

  1. Feedback

Introduction

Learning objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should:

  • Understand how assessment and feedback work in a blended and/or flipped learning environment.

  • Understand how you might track student progress and achievement.

Assessment

Throughout our courses, we assess students in a variety of ways which include diagnostic, continuous, formative and summative methods. The style and purpose of assessment vary depending on the subject, level, learning objectives, students and situation. Using a blended learning environment can increase the scope of assessment, as we can build in activities that are automatically assessed and more formally engage in self- and peer-reviews.

However, teacher feedback is an essential element of all assessments and cannot be replaced by a virtual presence.

Within a unit of work, there are generally three stages of learning:

  1. Students interacting with new knowledge

  2. Students practicing and deepening knowledge

  3. Students generating and testing hypothesis

Assessment Methods

The assessment methods we select will vary across these stages.

Imagine a situation where you are blending traditional and online assessments in a unit of work. Through your LMS you can create or import quizzes, drag and drop activities, fill in the gap tasks and flashcards to assess students when they are acquiring new knowledge. The use of online discussion forums and Wikis allows students to practice and deepen their knowledge, as they learn from and with each other. These need to be facilitated by a teacher but feedback can be provided by peers. When moving to the high cognitive activities, the feedback received from teachers is generally more valuable. However, students can still include some self-assessment through reflection and peer-assessment, using a simple activity where they identify ‘three things I liked and three questions I have about your work’.

Keep in mind academic honesty!

It is essential to explicitly teach students to be academically honest and to appropriately reference the sources they are accessing.

Most schools and education authorities have policies associated with academic honesty and malpractice and it is important that you apply these existing policies.

Allowing students to engage in online learning means that they are more naturally drawn to undertaking research through the internet. This can mean the sources accessed are less scholarly and increases the importance of students understanding how to evaluate sources.

Whether through traditional teaching methods or via an online unit of work, teachers need to ensure that students develop the skills they need to accurately and appropriately cite the sources they are accessing.

Many learning management systems have built-in plagiarism checkers, such as turnitin.com, but building a culture of academic integrity is the key.

Further reading

To find out more, read the following article.

Feedback

Assessments and feedback loop

Having provided detailed feedback for improvement on the assessment submission of a student, what happens next? In many situations, once feedback has been provided that is the end of the dialogue about that particular activity, and, frustratingly, teachers can experience a situation where students are repeating the same mistakes again and again.

The introduction of an assessment and feedback loop can shift a student's pattern of behavior.

Students are clearly aware of the purpose of the assessment in advance and then feedback comments provide opportunities for students to interact with and act on the advice given. Feedback loops are an ongoing process that continues with each new assignment. This allows teachers to reflect on the successes and areas for development in the assessment and feedback loop, as well as providing an insight into the engagement of individual students in their learning.

  1. Plan and design - The teacher designs an assessment for a specific purpose and to meet the needs of their individual learners.

  2. Share - The teacher shares the assessment activity and its aim(s), as well as the associated rubrics.

  3. Set - Students will complete and submit the assessment.

  4. Feedback - The submission is assessed against the intended aim and/or rubric and qualitative feedback is given. Assessments can be self, peer and/or teacher assessed.

  5. Interact - Students interact with feedback and reflect on potential improvements. This may be personally, collaboratively, or in conferences with the teacher.

  6. Plan and design - The teacher reviews the assessments and makes improvements based on student feedback and needs.

Feedback loop in a blended and flipped learning environment

The benefits of providing effective and appropriate feedback are clear. John Hattie’s research showed that feedback has one of the largest effects on student achievement but only if it is effective. Dylan Wiliam identified that what really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher. If students trust their teacher and value their judgment, they are more likely to read and reflect on the feedback provided. Using a blended learning environment and flipping the classroom can open up additional feedback channels. The online environment and your LMS provide structured opportunities for self- and peer-feedback, as well as giving the teacher additional feedback tools to allow more timely and targeted feedback, without increasing teacher workload. The assessment and feedback loop is all about how we go out of our way to ensure that students learn. They could get feedback on basically everything, whether this is automated or via self, peer, or teacher comment. Students should get their feedback in a variety of ways including written and verbal feedback from their peers and teacher but also through comments from the course community through discussion forums and Wikis. Many formative activities could be automated within an LMS. We know this should not be the only way in which students receive formative feedback as it gives them little opportunity for improvement as generally the lower-order cognitive verbs will be assessed.

Image: Tyson, Jon.. Unsplash, 2017.

Synchronous vs asynchronous feedback

One of the major benefits of synchronous learning is that the teacher and student/s are interacting ‘live’ which gives educators the opportunity to share feedback about how learners are doing in real time. This allows the teacher to positively reinforce desired behavior, performance and interactions. In addition, misconceptions can be addressed immediately, mistakes can be corrected on the spot, and students can be supported when using a new skill. This synchronous feedback is two-way so, as educators, we can get feedback from the learners and adapt the lesson as we go, and provide additional resources, examples or information in response to questions and comments from our students. Using asynchronous learning means that students may be working at different paces and on different activities. This allows teachers to target their support to individual students and specific tasks providing feedback, encouragement and support, as and when required.

Further reading

To find out more, read the following articles.

Tracking progress

As educators, we know the importance of goal setting and tracking student performance against those goals. Knowing where students are, where they need to be, and then planning and developing the support, lessons, resources and activities to allow them to make that journey is the fundamental role of a teacher.

Using a blended learning environment and utilizing an appropriate LMS can make tracking more streamlined but does not take away from the essential truth—we need to know our students both as individuals and as learners for the effectiveness of tracking to be maximized.

Most LMS include some form of gradebook where summative scores can be stored, weighed and analyzed. They also include ‘comment spaces’ where qualitative feedback can be given, responded to and saved. Generally, these are linked together so all assessment and achievement data is stored centrally which can be useful when reporting and preparing for parent-teacher meetings. When tracking using an electronic gradebook, we have to reflect on its purpose and usefulness to the learners. Through the LMS, students will be able to see their own grades and comments, but we need to help them understand what the data means. Consider what we might share with individual students or display visually on the walls of our classrooms.

What is tracked will vary depending on the age of your students, the subject and level you teach and your unique setting. Typically, tracking is done by the teacher but many educators find using student tracking useful to engage students in the tracking process. Student tracking will need some explicit instruction but can open dialogue which supports the assessment and feedback loop. Common examples of what is tracked include:

  • number and punctuality of submissions

  • quiz, test, and examination scores

  • attendance

  • behavior

  • proficiency levels/quality of submission against specific criteria.

Tracking can be time-consuming for teachers and can be isolated from classroom practices. There are numerous tools embedded in most LMS that reduce this load and allow tracking to form part of the conversation and culture in our learning space, whether physical or virtual.

Further reading

To find out more, read the following articles.