reflections on the year past

I was quite surprised to revisit the blog to find a whole year gone (where???) since my last post. Lots has been going on in terms of refining, evaluating and reflecting on the host of changes we have made to our assessment and feedback processes. What’s really been exciting us is the evaluations from students and staff and thinking about further improvements to the process. We are encouraged by the various awards we have been nominated for and even won!

As a starting point though I will point you a more up-to-date website with interACT information JISC the Design Studio and I promise to post soon with more information.


(ps what do you think of our new logo?)



Follow-up from eAssessment Online Conference

Thank you to the conference organisers for inviting me to present this work and thank you to all the participants for engaging and asking questions.

Below are the latest documents including the cover page.

This link will give you the cover page and also all the instructions that went with it:
Feedback and Reflection Process with Screenshots 010612

Below are the slides:

Further dissemination activities

Quick note about upcoming dissemination activities:

First up we have the JISC online conference, in collaboration with IOE assessment careers we (JISC funded projects) we are presenting our work around analysing feedback. This will involve a demonstration of two tools that profile tutor feedback. Thursday 15/11/2012 at 10.00-11.30

Second we are presenting our work at the e-Assessment online conference Wednesday 05/12/12 at 11.30am

More to follow soon…

Learn more about interACT

For the upcoming JISC meeting in Birmingham 17-18 October we have been asked to create a video that would communicate an aspect of our project. We decided to make an animated video talking people through the process.  Tell us what you think?

We’ve also been working hard to streamline the process for both students and staff and have worked out how to do this better. Here are the revised processes for using interACT. We have maintained the essential structure in Bb using the cover page and wiki functionality. Students no longer need to share their wikis with the tutor. The wikis are subscribed to centrally and alert posts are emailed to the relevant staff member for comment by our project officer. We are keeping track of time to ensure that the process is not overly onerous and so would be sustainable once the project funding is over. Feedback and Reflection Process with Screenshots After September Revision 101012

Evaluation with the use of interviews continues although the team is considering an online survey for wider reach.

Update from HEA sponsored event

On the 26th of July, the JISC InterACT project group ran a 1-day event sponsored by the Higher Education Academy titled: ‘Implementing best practice guidelines to promote assessment for learning: challenges and rewards’. The team includes: Rola Ajjawi, Susie Schofield, Karen Barton, Grant Murray, John McAleer and David Walker.

The purpose of this event was to generate strategies for the uptake of best practice guidelines in assessment and feedback in the higher education sector. Findings from research were explored with regards to the use of best practice guidelines in developing assessment for learning to stimulate discussion.

The objectives of this workshop were to:

• Generate discussion about best practice guidelines of feedback and assessment in higher education;

• Disseminate findings from two research projects; and

• Discuss strategies for uptake across the sector, including overcoming challenges and identifying rewards.

A number of new strategies were presented for improving feedback dialogic practices. A feedback audit tool was presented that can be used to profile the way different tutors give feedback. Participants discussed potential reasons for the ‘feedback gap’ between tutor-student perceptions of feedback. Causes included: 1) blurring of the boundaries between instruction and feedback; 2) feedback being monologic and transmissive and so failing to transform learners’ internal dialogue; and 3) tutors taking a narrow perspective on feedback that is focussed on technical/disciplinary learning rather self-regulation where learners are helped to develop their complex evaluative judgements. Participants worked in small group to generate strategies to address some of the principles that can be found in the literature around assessment and feedback.

We were delighted to have Dr Steve Draper from the University of Glasgow join us and present his work. He challenged the audience to consider that feedback is only feedback when it leads to a change in the learner and this change needs to be evidenced. He also presented some work demonstrating benefit of 2D feedback where learners can make the most from their grade by knowing how their performance improved relative to previous efforts (ipsative) and where they are relative to the rest of the class.

The following principles were agreed by the participants as being most relevant, during an appreciative enquiry session the participants were asked to note what happens (discover) and what their dreams would be under each of the principles.

1. Ensures feedback leads to improvement (and we can see the improvement)

  • Discover – Reference to criteria and goals; Podcasts of “ideal” answer post-exams; Invite “fails” to come and see me, bringing with them some ideas of change; Specific feedback/forward on future assignments – how to take what they may have learned forward; Ipsative and normative feedback / discussion with individuals to action plans; Generic feedback; Continuous tutorials which lead on from previous; Provision of feed forward.
  • Dream – Properly designed assignment schedule with feed forward built in; Shared wiki has potential to lead to improvement; Implement prompt on what students wans feedback on; How do we motivate students to want to attain more than a “pass”; Individualised approach that addresses specific need.

2. Engage students with assessment criteria

  • Discover – Students can select criteria they want feedback on; Go over criteria in initial session (introduction to module); Published in the module handbook; Signpost to criteria in subsequent sessions; Feedback sheet gives breakdown on criteria both marks and comments.
  • Dream – Reasonable staff / student ratios; More time; Involve students in setting criteria from the beginning of the module; Get advantage of face-to-face feedback session for large cohort/classes.

3. Student uses the feedback to inform future work

  • Discover – Formative feedback leads to dialogue; Repeated iterative assessment in each year at each level with source guidelines; Action in response to formative feedback – your comment /any response.
  • Dream – Transferable learning; Take responsibility; Develop skills to give / take / act on feedback.

4. Leads to long-term self-assessment and action (life-long learning)

  • Discover – Encourage reflection; Student – student dialogue; (More) formative assessment; Criteria; Provide constructive feedback; Provide positive feedback; Provide marks; Tutor-student dialogue.
  • Dream – Design principle; Learning student cantered driven; Time; Transparency of marks; Variety of assessment  v’s “skills” in teaching

5. Leads to personalised learning

  • Discover – Staff / student relationship; Ask students to contextualise their work – demonstrate application to their context

The following recommendations concluded the event:

  •  re-conceptualise feedback as dialogic, social and constructed rather than transmitted
  •  take a curriculum/programmatic perspective on assessment and feedback, rather than viewing feedback as a knee-jerk, one-off post assessment event
  • re-purpose feedback for promoting self-regulation rather than just for improving performance on specific tasks
  •  to consider ways of promoting self-regulation, dialogue and a programmatic approach to feedback
  • consider ways of promoting dialogue using technology

In addition an Annotated Bibliography of important articles for assessment and feedback was compiled. Slides from the event can be found at:

Update from ASKe feedback event

I attended the ASKe feedback event in Oxford last week ‘New perspectives on feedback’ Professor David Nicol gave an interesting talk about the importance of developing complex evaluative skills in learners and argued that even good quality feedback has to be evaluated by the individual against their understanding of their performance and standards. This is more similar to the concept of self-monitoring than a global self-assessment judgement about performance. The interACT project has aimed to better sequence assessment tasks in a programmatic way, profile tutor feedback in order to improve quality of feedback, ask students to process and reflect on the feedback and also to evaluate their work against the specific standards and criteria. Thereby, adhering to a number of strategies mentioned by David on the day. The limitation in our implementation at the moment remains the limited opportunities in reviewing and evaluating peers’ work. In reflecting about the questions we have chosen perhaps one of the questions should have asked the student to summarise the feedback – David reported that this is analogous to self explanation which Chi et al (1994) report to improve self-monitoring and evaluation. ( For more on self-explaining He also reported some work by Cho and MacArthur who showed that students made more complex improvements to their work after receiving feedback from multiple sources.

On my reading list a paper on how to effect transformational change in HE by Nicol and Draper (2009)

In the afternoon I attended a workshop by Stephen Merry on audio feedback. He narrates his feedback instantly as marking and uses both written and audio feedback. We had an interesting discussion about how audio feedback makes you more aware of the person at the receiving end of the feedback and so aware of the potential emotional impact of the feedback. Merry & Orsmond (2008) Students’ Attitudes to and Usage of Academic Feedback Provided Via Audio Files:


Chi, M. T. H., DeLeeuw, N., Chiu, M.-H., & LaVancher, C. (1994). Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding. Cognitive Science, 18, 439-477

Cho, K., & MacArthur, C. (2011). Learning by reviewing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1), 73-84. doi:10.1037/a0021950

Merry, S. & Orsmond, P. (2008) Students’ Attitudes to and Usage of Academic Feedback Provided via Audio Files. Bioscience Education e-journal 11-3.


Back at the ranch

Susie Schofield is trying to make the wiki more readily searchable and believes the solution may be in getting students to insert their names into the title of the wiki. We are planning to run some focus groups in the first instance in order to determine what other refinements to our model are needed.

The team is very excited about our upcoming dissemination events including at the ASME conference and also the HEA event we are hosting here in Dundee. Check previous blog post for more information!

InterACT launch communication strategy

We launched interACT on the 30th April 2012 following consultation with students and staff (academic and administrative). (See previous posts for information from the focus group with students.)

Prior to the launch the following actions were carried out:

  1. Changes were made to the Induction Module to inform students of the assessment and feedback process.
  2. The course handbook was updated to incorporate changes to the assessment and feedback process.
  3. Instructions (including screencasts) were developed to guide the students through the InterACT Feedback and Reflection Process 010612 and were included within the assignments page of each module on Blackboard.
  4. Announcements were added to the module announcements pages to inform students of the changes to the assessment and feedback process.
  5. Students were emailed to notify them of the changes to the assessment and feedback process.
  6. Students were provided with an email address to contact if they had any queries

Friday fry-up

Susie and Rola presented the project to interested staff of the University of Dundee on Friday past. There was lots of interest and discussion generated. The most commonly asked question relates to managing staff workload. There is bound to be an increase, at least at the start, when moving from a monologic/transmitted model of feedback to a more dialogic one. The real question isn’t whether the workload has increased – but is this increase contributing to improved student learning? Or perhaps to reduce the sense of isolation often experienced in distance learning programmes such as ours? How would we know if it were?

The self review cover page and reflective questions should be prompting student reflection on their work but will it be too much if completed for every assignment? The team is now considering patchwork type assessment to bring it all together…

Building and refining of interact process

A meeting was held today to discuss the launch of interACT. A lot of work has gone in by the team to get to this point. They have been busy ensuring that the wording is correct, that the process works within the confines of blackboard and updating all documentation to include this.

There has been much discussion among the project team regarding the principles underlying this project. The fundamental principle is that feedback should be dialogic and we have developed a set of principles that guide what dialogic feedback means.

We held a focus group with 6 of our face-to-face students in March. The students were introduced to the interACT model and provided with examples of instructions and questions, a summary of the focus group can be found in the following document Focus Group with CME Students 160312

Watch this space for the launch of interACT very soon!


Confirmed dissemination activities for 2012

We are very excited to be presenting our work on the JISC interACT project at the following events!

* HEA Enhancement Themes National Conference poster presentation 7-8/03/2012. Information about the conference:

Link to our abstract:

* HEA sponsored workshop in collaboration with Dr Steve Draper 26/07/2012. This one day free event will explore the challenges and rewards of implementing best-practice education guidelines around assessment and feedback. To be held at the University of Dundee. For more information, to view the timetable or to book a spot please visit:

* Workshop for the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) 2012 conference to be held in Brighton 18-20/07/2012. Information about the conference:

Link to our abstract:

* Workshop  e-Assessment Scotland Conference 2012 to be held here at the University of Dundee 31/08/2012. Also a free event! For more information: