Step 5. Assessment and Feedback


» What is formative and summative assessment?

What is formative and summative assessment?

You are likely to experience two main types of assessment: formative and summative. Formative assessment is concerned with on-going monitoring of your performance in order to provide feedback that will help you to improve. Summative assessment will contribute marks towards your final grade. Both types of assessment are equally important to you, and in fact some would say formative assessment is more important for learning.

You should receive appropriate feedback from formative and summative assessment. This will help to inform your future practice.


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» Who will assess me?

Who will assess me?

Your course coordinator and course description will outline the different types of assessment strategies that will take place and they should discuss the value of each. These could include:

(a) self-assessment – assessing your own work;
(b) peer-assessment – assessed by your classmates or by students a year or two ahead in the same programme, or
(c) tutor-assessment - by your lecturer, tutor, placement preceptor or laboratory /postgraduate demonstrator.

There is tremendous potential to learn from all types of assessment. Self-assessment is a very effective way of identifying what is required of you and encourages you to evaluate your own ability against the stated requirements. Peer-assessment benefits the assessor as well as the assessed. By internalising the assessment criteria the assessor can learn from assessing your work (as you can from assessing their work). It can provide motivation to do better and confidence in your own ability. You are probably most familiar with tutor-led assessment. It can provide a reality check and help calibrate self- and peer-assessment.

You may be assessed
(a) against your own personal best/highest standard – ipsative assessment;
(b) against your peers standard – normative assessment or
(c) against a set of predetermined criteria – criterion-based assessment.

While you might compare your marks to those of your peers, the assessment that is generally applied is criterion-based, with criteria set by your course leaders, placement preceptors or registration bodies (e.g. PSI, MCI or NMBI). In some courses students themselves may be involved in setting the criteria for the assessment.


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» How often will I be assessed?

How often will I be assessed?

The frequency of assessment will be course specific and should be discussed with your course coordinator. Continuous and frequent assessment is valuable. It provides an opportunity to increase learning and identify your future learning needs.


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» Are there marks for assessment?

Are there marks for assessment?

The value of assessment, in particular where feedback is provided, is far superior to the marks that are associated with the assessment. Assessment can be what we refer to as ‘low stakes assessment’, this means that there are not a lot of marks associated with it and its main purpose is to help you self-assess, identify your learning needs and guide your learning. Assessment can also be ‘high stakes’, that is, when there are a substantial number of marks associated with the assignment. Often ePortfolio reflections are marked on a pass/fail or achieved/not achieved basis. In this situation, once you follow the guidelines and complete the tasks to a certain standard you obtain a pass/achieved judgement.

The course description should indicate what portion of the assessment is graded and the contribution to your final marks, or if instead it is entirely graded on a pass/fail or achieved/not achieved basis.


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» What is the value of assessment to me/how can I benefit from assessment?

What is the value of assessment to me/how can I benefit from assessment?

Assessment, especially formative assessment, is essential to developing your learning. Assessment focuses your mind and helps you to identify gaps in your knowledge and skills. Assessment should be viewed as an opportunity to learn from what you were unclear or confused about and to help improve your performance and ability to solve problems going forward. Samuel Smiles, who was an influential figure in personal development literature as far back as 1859, said “We learn wisdom from failure more than from success: we often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and he who never made a mistake, never made a discovery” [Samuel Smiles, Self Help, 1859]. This quotation still holds true; we learn from doing, and that sometimes includes mistakes. Assessment will help you to identify if, and where, you went wrong. With the right support and guidance you can really learn from assessment.


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» How can I benefit from feedback?

How can I benefit from feedback?

The purpose of feedback is to comment on your performance in order to ‘feed-forward’. This means that as you learn from feedback on work you submitted you will use the comments and advice you get to improve your future work.


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» Who will provide me with feedback?

Who will provide me with feedback?

Feedback may be provided by anyone who is involved in teaching or learning on your course, including, lecturers, postgraduate demonstrators and tutors, placement tutors/preceptors and your peers.


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» How quickly should I expect feedback?

How quickly should I expect feedback?

How quickly feedback can be provided may depend on the number of students in your class, the complexity of the assignment, and the form of feedback (generic or personalised).


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» What form can I get feedback in e.g. written, audio, face-to-face?

What form can I get feedback in e.g. written, audio, face-to-face?

Feedback is beneficial in any form; the most frequent forms of feedback are face-to-face or written. However facilities may be available to record feedback and make this available online. You should discuss the options with your tutor and see what works best for you and what is possible for the tutor.


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» Can I ask questions relating to the feedback?

Can I ask questions relating to the feedback? 

Feedback is very valuable and is given to you by experts or peers to improve your understanding and knowledge of the tasks that you were to complete. Yes you can ask questions about the feedback in order to improve your understanding and plan for improvement. Note there is a difference between asking questions to gain further insight and understanding, and questioning the feedback itself! Your tutors, demonstrators and preceptors are there to help you and during your own self-assessment their advice and suggestions should be considered and taken on board. If you do encounter difficulties in relation to assessment or feedback it is good practice to discuss it with your tutor and clarify.


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