The Principles of Assessment and Feedback for Learning

The University of Glasgow Leading Enhancement in Assessment and Feedback (LEAF) initiative identified the need for clear objectives in Assessment and Feedback design across the University. Motivated by this demand, and taking inspiration from existing research in Higher Education, we have developed the Five Principles for Assessment and Feedback for Learning. The goal of the design was to ‘develop a set of simple practice-oriented principles based on research that specify but do not over-specify what needs to be done’ (Nicol & Draper, 2009). The Principles are intended to be aspirational, and will serve as a benchmark for Assessment and Feedback design across the University.

The Principles encourage multiple routes for implementation, allowing them to be adapted into the curriculum design across all four Colleges. To facilitate this, we have gathered a selection of examples for how each Principle can be implemented, inspired by case-studies of good practice. In addition to this, we have identified a selection of possible outcomes for each Principle, making it easier to target specific areas within assessment and feedback.

1. facilitate flexibility and choice

This might include:

  • Facilitating personalised feedback by giving students the opportunity to identify areas where they require additional support
  • Offering a range of options for feedback
  • Providing feedback in an accessible, flexible manner
  • Offering a range of options in the assessment method
  • Offering a range of options on the assessment topic
  • Using a range of methods for feedback and assessment across the programme
  • Consulting with students and engaging with them

Outcomes:

  • Students take responsibility for their learning
  • Students have a more personalised education
  • Students have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in the ways that suit them best
  • Staff are able to be creative in developing valid assessment and feedback

References:

Draper, S. (2012), ‘New Principles’.
Evans, C. (2013), Making Sense of Assessment Feedback in Higher Education, Review of Educational Research, 83(1), 70-120.
National Union of Students (2008), ‘The Great NUS Feedback Amnesty’ Briefing Paper.
Rowntree, D. (1977), Assessing students: How shall we know them?, Kogan Page: London.
University of Ulster Workshop Toolkit. Adapted from the REAP principles of good formative assessment and feedback.


2. support development as a learner

This might include:

  • Developing feedback portfolios across the student’s academic career
  • Providing opportunities to reflect on good performance and connect this to improvement goals
  • Providing students with multiple opportunities to develop expertise in learning
  • Integrating assessment and feedback literacy into teaching sessions
  • Providing feedback on work in progress
  • Ensuring high-stakes assessment is preceded by formative and/or low-stakes assessment

Outcomes:

  • Students develop as reflective learners and are able to benefit from this skill in their future studies
  • Students progressively take more responsibility for their own learning
  • Students develop self and peer assessment skills
  • Staff develop their pedagogical expertise

References:

Evans, C. (2013), Making Sense of Assessment Feedback in Higher Education
Nicol, D, J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006), Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218.
University of Ulster Workshop Toolkit. Adapted from the REAP principles of good formative assessment and feedback.


3. foster interaction and dialogue between students and staff

This might include:

  • Enabling students to work in partnership with staff in the design of learning opportunities
  • Making student action an explicit component of the feedback process
  • Requesting feedback from students to inform session, course or programme development and making the impact of this feedback explicit
  • Engaging students in the development of assessment and feedback

Outcomes:

  • Students engage in dialogue about their learning with their peers
  • Students engage in dialogue about their learning with staff
  • Students increase their assessment and feedback literacy
  • Staff engage in discussion with one another about learning design

References:

Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987), Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education, American Association of Higher Education Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.
Gibbs, G., Jessop, T., El-Hakim, Y. (2010), TESTA Manual: a practical guide to improving student learning.
Nicol, D, J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006), Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218.
Nicol, D. (2009), Transforming assessment and feedback: enhancing integration and empowerment in the first year. Published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
University of Ulster Workshop Toolkit. Adapted from the REAP principles of good formative assessment and feedback.


4. develop skills and attributes in addition to subject knowledge

This might include:

  • Recognising in feedback the learning gained through tasks as well as the product or outcome
  • Assessing the process of learning as well as the outcome or product of learning
  • Targeting graduate attributes as an additional component to assessment

Outcomes:

  • Students are able to develop a core set of graduate attributes, in line with University initiatives
  • Students are able to identify their subject skills and broader graduate attributes, and how these can be applied to different fields

References:

Rust, C. (2007), Towards a scholarship of assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 229-237.


5. promote a positive impact on student confidence and motivation

This might include:

  • Structuring tasks to be progressively more difficult
  • Encouraging regular self-assessment and reflection
  • Providing adequate time and acknowledging effort on challenging tasks
  • Providing formative feedback in advance of the assessment

Outcomes:

  • Students are able to observe their progress, improving their self-esteem and motivation
  • Student learning is motivated by assessment, not simply measured by it

References:

Rust, C. (2007), Towards a scholarship of assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 229-237.
Nicol, D, J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006), Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218.
University of Ulster Workshop Toolkit. Adapted from the REAP principles of good formative assessment and feedback.