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Student Online Formative Assessment (SOFA): Course S279: Our dynamic planet

Description Each student online formative assessment (SOFA) consists of a small bank of ten...

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Learning and Teaching Development Team
9 March 2010


Each student online formative assessment (SOFA) consists of a small bank of ten interactive OpenMark questions, the majority of which contain exchangeable variables. Access to each of the SOFAs is via the interactive online study calendar, with students invited to ‘Check your understanding for week …’. The introductory text to each assessment suggests potential ways to work through each set of questions and informs students that odd numbered questions have been designed to test the expected level of application and understanding within the course, whereas even numbered questions will be more challenging.

The SOFAs offer students feedback advice and guidance at a variety of stages throughout the assessment including: general hints and/or information pages preceding a particular question; stepped and targeted feedback after each attempt at a particular question; summary feedback at the end of each question; and final summary across all ten questions at the end of each assessment. All feedback is formative, with the feedback provided at the end of each SOFA commenting explicitly on how well each of the learning outcomes tested have been demonstrated, and providing an indication of the overall level of academic competency attained at that point in time


The major difference in this work compared to other summative and formative Openmark assessment activities, is the use of learning outcomes to provide feedback to the students, and the complete absence of any ‘numerical grade’ or ‘score’. This encourages the students to focus on their skills development and the areas that are consistently weaker than others, rather than becoming fixated by an overall score. The outcome is that students are repeating the assessments, and in some cases particular questions (or types of questions) in order to improve the level of achievement demonstrated. They are then feeding back that they feel more confident in their abilities to improve their own learning through targeted work.

Examples of this assessment are at:

(> Follow the Colmsct link for more)

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