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Equality, diversity and partnership in assessment and feedback

09 Nov 2021 | Advance HE Advance HE Symposium attracts over 100 delegates and showcases what it means to put students at the heart of assessment and feedback.

More than 100 delegates attended the two-day virtual Advance HE Assessment and Feedback Symposium 2021 on 4-5 November. Dr Patrick Baughan, Senior Adviser (Learning and Teaching) at Advance HE and Dr Erica Morris, Senior Associate and HE Consultant, co-chaired the event which explored the theme of Putting the Student at the Heart of Assessment and Feedback: Equality, Diversity and Partnership.

Keynote speaker Dr Joanna Tai, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University in Melbourne, addressed what it actually means to put the student at the heart of assessment and feedback. Jo is also a Senior Fellow and presented data from her research on equity and inclusive assessments.

Answering what it means to put the student at the heart of assessment and feedback, she said that for her, “there has to be this focus on learning. We need to support students’ active role in feedback.”

Her three main messages were that if you put students at the heart of assessment and feedback you need to think about assessment and feedback as learning opportunities for students. She also stated the need to understand and respond to student diversity and finally put forward that students should be involved in the design of assessment and feedback.

“Students are not all the same. It's easy to talk about students as one big surgical body but that's not the case at all. You need to think about students as being diverse.”

She said that beyond protected characteristics students have diverse learning goals and interests and “they are also likely to have diverse futures beyond university, especially when we think about how uncertain jobs might be in the future.” She suggested that how this filters through to what is done in assessment and feedback is really important. “When we asked students about this [how to respond better to student diversity] …it was to be passionate in what we do and have a dialogue with students.”

“We also need to recognise students are in charge of the learning journeys within the constraints of the systems and environments that they exist within. This might change what we expect them to do but we need to support them and what they see as best for them and guide them.”

She suggested involving students and other stakeholders in assessment and feedback design because “without other people involved in this conversation, we are only getting half of the message…one does not function without the other so within assessment and feedback we really should be doing it together.”

Dawn Jones and Lynn Ellison from Wolverhampton Law School presented their compelling new paper: Is Feedback Fit for Purpose? Why it is critical that there is synergy between staff intention and student understanding. The paper explores the dissonance identified, in terms of staff intention and student understanding, of the language used in feedback and why synergy is necessary if the aims of feedback are to be achieved. The authors discussed how the results of their research have been used to put students at the forefront of feedback with the aim of improving performance for all students.

The symposium also showcased some vignette presentations about the Advance HE compendium Assessment and Feedback in a Post-Pandemic Era: A Time for Learning and Inclusion which was published in July 2021. The compendium incorporates the work of 45 authors and three of those were present to highlight these in a special session on Day Three.

Dr Salma M S Al Arefi is a Teaching fellow in Electrical Power Systems and Fellow of Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE), School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Leeds. Her paper Enhancing the Inclusivity of Oral Assessments considered that while oral/verbal assessment might be authentic, it does not cater for the learning needs of all students. She shared best-practice on conducting an inclusive oral assessment to help anticipate and cater for the needs of all students.     

Can hybrid support help to narrow the gap? by Dr Nicola Swann, Senior Personal Tutor and Teaching Fellow, University of Surrey explored the pre-pandemic preferences already leaning towards specialised and personal forms of support and demonstrated a need for enhanced flexibility to make academic support more inclusive.

A paper by Dr Lisa Padden, Programme Manager, University for All, University College Dublin Embedding equity and inclusion in higher education assessment strategies: creating and sustaining positive change in the post-pandemic era highlighted the positive changes we can take forward from the pivot online. Dr Padden focused on how we can make this diversification of assessment sustainable ensuring all students benefit and outlined some key principles for inclusive assessment based on the Universal Design for Learning framework and recent research on barriers and enablers for diversity and choice of assessment. 

Advance HE members can download Assessment and Feedback in a Post-Pandemic Era: A Time for Learning and Inclusion here


Our symposia series focuses on thematic areas of interest within teaching and learning and are for anyone wishing to improve their knowledge of the latest teaching pedagogies and upskill their practice in key areas. Find out more

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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