You are in a department that has seen student satisfaction with their assessment and feedback experience slowly decline in the last few years. There is much pressure at your university to do well on student satisfaction surveys. Although your department has tried various interventions, satisfaction scores have not improved.
The situation above is one of four scenarios we start with in the new Advance HE Assessment and Feedback Superchargers resource. We designed this resource to help programme teams put into practice the lessons from our 2022 review, Impacts of higher education assessment and feedback policy and practice on students: A review of the literature 2016-2021.
The challenge of translating research into practice is central to our work. As researchers, we do our best to write accessible reviews and conduct field based empirical studies that have clear implications for practice. Nonetheless, as teachers on educational development programmes at the University of Kent and as invited speakers elsewhere, we are often asked by HE teachers how they can apply the lessons from research to make improvements to their own practice. This resource is our way of addressing these challenging questions and bridging the research and practice gap.
We designed each of the four scenarios for educational programme teams to address over a half-day workshop in groups of four to six participants. With four scenarios discussed in parallel, a single workshop will accommodate 16-24 participants and stimulate a re-thinking of the entire programme curriculum. In the scenario summarised above, participants focus on the second year of their programme. The other scenarios respectively focus on how assessment and feedback can support the first-year transition to higher education; prepare students for employment and life, especially in the third year and help integrate international and local master’s degree students.
Eight principles to enrich learning in HE
The Superchargers resource contains eight decks of cards, each addressing one of eight principles known to enrich learning in higher education. These key principles are high expectations, reflection and integration, working with diverse others, meaningful interactions, real world applications, feedback, sustained student effort and public display of competence (Kuh and O’Donnell, 2013). Based on the literature review evidence (Pitt and Quinlan, 2022), we argue that designing assessment and feedback in alignment with these principles will “supercharge” those practices, creating higher impact on student learning.
A deck has five to eight numbered cards, each with one specific, practical idea for implementing effective practices identified in the literature review. The cards also include discussion prompts, guiding teams to consider how the idea might be implemented in their own programme to address the challenge presented in the scenario. Three decks (principles) are particularly pertinent to each scenario.
With a game-like design, workshops are meant to be fun and interactive, while widening the awareness of participants about possible solutions to common challenges. Participants are dealt cards from the pertinent decks and must select which one to “play” on their turn to initiate discussion with colleagues. Workshop participants apply ideas from the aligned decks of cards to design a local solution to the generic starter scenario. In doing so, discussion focuses on “supercharging” assessment and feedback design in their programme. After several rounds of game play, teams integrate what they’ve learned in an action plan for their own context.
The resource puts assessment and feedback at the heart of curricular design. It also encourages consideration of assessment and feedback across modules, not just within single modules. To advance practice across a programme, workshops bring members of programme teams together to think about assessment and feedback design in an integrated way. We suggest that a department divides up to address all four scenarios in parallel so that, collectively, they will have considered all the principles of high impact practices and how they might be put into practice.
Organising the resource around principles forced us to integrate evidence from different parts of the literature review. In general, the assessment and feedback literatures are somewhat separate; articles tend to focus primarily on either assessment design or feedback effectiveness, a bifurcation we replicated in our 2022 review. Yet, educational practice is not neatly divided into different categories, silos or specialties. Crossing boundaries in the literature is one of the key elements of translating research into practice. Thus, this integrated resource – addressing both assessment and feedback in the context of real-world scenarios – is a significant innovation that we hope will inspire and equip colleagues to put assessment and feedback research into enhanced practice.
Kuh, G D and O’Donnell, K (2013) Ensuring quality and taking high-impact practices to scale. Washington, DC: Association Of American Colleges And Universities.
Pitt, E. & Quinlan, K. M. (2022). Impacts of higher education assessment and feedback policy and practice on students: a review of the literature 2016-2021. York, UK: Advance HE.