Feeding back from eAssessment Scotland

 Posted by Steve Lay

eAssessment Scotland is an annual event hosted by the University of Dundee in Scotland.

This year’s conference had a very clear theme: Feeding Back, Forming the Future. I have to say that the programme was managed very well to fit with this theme and that the theme also fits well with the current mood of the wider community. For example, in the UK as a whole the JISC have an ongoing programme on assessment and feedback, and this event provided an opportunity for some of those projects to report on their progress.

I do find that ”feedback’ can be a very general term. In the opening keynote, Professor David Boud, University of Technology Sydney provided an analysis of the subject through a 3-generation model of feedback. At one point he encouraged us to “position feedback as part of learning and not as an adjunct to assessment”.

I sensed that assessment was being used in an Assessment of  Learning sense here. This contrasts with “Assessment for Learning”, these phrases are simpler ways of expressing the basic idea behind summative and formative assessment respectively. It is the latter which generates the type of feedback that could potentially meet the challenge posed by Dr Steve Draper, University of Glasgow: What If Feedback Only Counted When it Changed the Learner?

From the tone of the discussion at the conference, I do sense that the higher-education community is trying hard to adapt to the new perceptions of formal, informal and experiential learning reflected in the 70:20:10 model of education and development — by continuing to embrace the value of formal learning while adopting other modes of learning.

The 10% is sometimes summarised as being the part of our learning effected by formal courses (and reading). Feedback is reserved for the 20% where we learn from our peers. Many of the presentations were about embracing social systems to attempt to exploit these modes of feedback.

Clearly, assessment can have an important role to play in assessment for learning but I took away the impression that this community sometimes needs reminding that understanding the purpose of an assessment is vital to its success. Combining assessment for learning and assessment of  learning may not be fruitful.

Leave a Reply