Assessment Feedback Practice In First Year using Digital Technologies – A Baseline Review

O'Regan, Lisa, Brown, Mark, Maguire, Moira, Harding, Nuala, Walsh, Elaine, Gallagher, Gerry and McDermott, Geraldine (2015) Assessment Feedback Practice In First Year using Digital Technologies – A Baseline Review. In: EdTech 2015: Beyond the Horizon: Policy, Practice and Possibilities, UL.


This paper reports on a baseline review of Assessment Feedback practices at four Irish third level institutions as part of the Supporting Transition: Enhancing (Assessment) Feedback in First Year Using Digital Technologies project, funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. The review of current practice, coupled with a related literature review, focuses on the first year experience of assessment feedback for staff and students, with a particular emphasis on the use of digital technologies.This study is particularly timely in the Irish context given our strategic focus on improving the transition to Higher Education and the first year experience (Hunt, 2011). Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement and is particularly important in supporting the transition to Higher Education (Nicol 2009). While evidence shows that regular and frequent formative feedback in first year is associated with student success (Tinto, 2005, Nicol, 2009) the reality, particularly in large cohorts, can be quite different. The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2013, found that nationally, 45.1% of first year undergraduate students never, and 23.3% only sometimes, received timely written or oral feedback from teachers on academic performance.There is considerable potential to enhance assessment and feedback practices using digital technologies (JISC, 2010). This two-year project (2015-2017) seeks to address this potential. The project is a collaborative initiative between the Higher Education Authority (HEA) cluster partners: Maynooth University (MU), Dublin City University (DCU), Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT). The project aims to identify ways to enhance feedback for first-year students, using digital technologies. The initiative consists of three phases. Phase One will review existing feedback practices in first year undergraduate programmes, provide appropriate conceptual framework(s) and a suite of technology enhanced feedback approaches. Phase Two will pilot a range of teacher feedback, feed-forward and peer review approaches and technologies. Phase Three will focus on the dissemination of the project.This paper is concerned with the first phase and will report on the research undertaken in the first half of 2015 to identify current assessment feedback practice in first year undergraduate programmes, which involved the design and implementation of two main instruments; (i) an anonymous online survey of lecturers teaching on first year undergraduate programmes and (ii) focus group interviews with first year undergraduate class representatives. Specifically, we sought to identify:● How assessment feedback is provided in first year undergraduate programmes,● The timing and frequency of assessment feedback,● The types of assessment feedback provided to students,● The digital technologies used in the provision of assessment feedback,● Lecturer views on assessment feedback processes and practices,● Student views on assessment feedback in first year.In summary, this paper describes the rationale for the project, the research approach taken to the current practice review and will present preliminary findings. Although still a work in progress, the paper concludes with a discussion of the initial conclusions that can be drawn from the findings.

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