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IBLC11-Abstract-Towards Enhanced Feedback Practices in a Virtual Environment: a case study.

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Nannayi Dakat
16 May 2011

Author: Mr Peter Mellett


The context of this study is an M-level distance learning programme in International Construction Management. EPSRC funding in 2006 facilitated conversion from a traditional paper-based delivery into a blended-learning format. However, while study content and educational processes changed radically, assessment did not evolve in parallel fashion. Speaking largely from within their online ‘collaborative communities of practice’, students expressed concerns about clarity and consistency of feedback in relation to (opaque) assessment criteria, also noting that assessment offered inadequate opportunities for demonstrating the full extent of their new learning.

To address these shortcomings, University funding was obtained in early 2010 to support the project 'Adding Value to Summative Assessment Through Enhancing Feedback Practices'.  An initial survey reviewed tutors’ perspectives on assessment and feedback, identified weaknesses in their feedback practices and canvassed their desire to implement change. Facilitated by staff associated with Hertfordshire’s CETL/BLU, tutors then met to address students’ concerns and the issues identified by the survey.

However, a major obstacle to progress then emerged in the form of the lack of availability of tutors’ time to engage in significant development work. Therefore, the focus of the project was revised, based on the premise that all feedback opportunities are limited where an assessment task may be intrinsically infertile or its intentions obscurely expressed. Attention has passed to reforming the wording of assignment instructions and their marking guides against a common and consistent vocabulary operating across the full range of cognitive abilities; open and closed book examinations are being reformed against similar standards. All-electronic submission has enhanced annotation opportunities during marking, encouraging the formative aspects of feedback that were, for the most part, purely summative. Ongoing work is to negotiate a glossary of standardised assessment terms with students, allowing them to interpret and apply feedback learning as feed-forward for future assessments.

Keywords: distance-learning assessment feedback summative formative

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