Student Approaches to Learning and Assessment:

The context of assessment feedback



Richard Higgins, Alan Skelton and Peter Hartley

Department of Cultural Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK



This paper reports on one aspect of a three year research project investigating the meaning and impact of assessment feedback on written course work assignments for students in Higher Education. This is an important issue at present, particularly in the context of the rise in outcomes based assessment which has led to a growth in debates on the purpose of assessment and feedback and its impact on students' approaches to learning. In the first phase, we have focused on units within Business and Humanities in two HE institutions. However, this research raises fundamental issues for all disciplines which use written assessments.

We have analyzed data gathered from semi-structured interviews with level one students at both institutions and are currently analyzing questionnaire responses from over 300 students to investigate whether different students adopt different learning strategies, as suggested in previous research, and what the implications are for assessment feedback.

Our initial findings suggest that there are at least four different student learning strategies. We argue that these learning strategies mediate student approaches to assessment, and responses to feedback, in a number of ways. However, we also argue that there are extensive variations in the ways tutors provide feedback and that these too mediate students responses to feedback and impact upon their learning strategies. This has implications for how staff cater for student differences and how we can improve student learning through feedback, and these implications are discussed in the context of course design and delivery.

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