In this extra post, Avita Rath shares her experience with using technology positively to improve her assessment and feedback practices in a way that is interactive, agentic and empowering for students. This is part one of a two-part post, which will follow next Monday.
Feedback is the lynchpin to making sense of any form of assessment and “is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement” (Hattie and Timperley, 2007). As asserted rightly by Professor Bayne and Professor Drysdale in their stimulating Teaching Matters blog post↗️, technologies have transformed these practices, making them more versatile, innovative, timely and accessible via synchronous and asynchronous channels such as chats, virtual drop-in sessions, audio-visual, recordings, blogs, discussion forums, emails, cloud apps, virtual pinboards and e-portfolios. Although the list cited above is not exhaustive, my point is that multimodal approaches have shown to enhance the quality and quantity of feedback practices making them more relevant and detailed (Deeley, 2018).
In my context of teaching undergraduate dental students, feedback practices are predominantly carried out face-to-face in clinics. Alternatively, however, we resort to online synchronous discussions on Teams or Zoom using text chats by many of my colleagues. Such practices are very useful and flexible as they can be recorded and revisited time and again. But due to the nature of our course, the limited time, and the tight schedule, they sometimes become resource intensive and time-limited, especially when there is a desire for teacher mediation of the ongoing dialogue (Zhu and Carless, 2018). Nevertheless, they are undoubtedly WAY BETTER than the monologic, cursory written feedback that our teachers traditionally gave us when we were undergraduate students!
Still, I reckon we could certainly do much more with the myriad of technologies and interfaces available to alleviate these time-bound issues to foster interaction.
One way to go about this, as evidence suggests, is to record audio, video or screencasts, or a combination, and even better if accompanied by written feedback that identifies areas of improvement and stimulates further engagement with the topic. In fact, a large-scale Australian study conducted by a team of leading feedback researchers, found that these formats convey rich verbal and emotional cues that are akin to face-to-face interactions and improve comprehension. Such formats aid student motivation and are suitable for a large cohort (Ryan, 2018).
Albeit the benefits, one caveat is that these forms of feedback could still pose a barrier to the ongoing dialogues that are integral to the development of one’s evaluative judgement (Carless and Boud, 2018), which can only happen if learners can compare their work with others and make those comparisons explicit (Nicol, 2021). Being detailed also makes them more corrective than conversational (Carless and Boud, 2018) and undergraduate students, like mine, are still inclined towards heeding answers from their teachers. Although some may disagree with me, blaming it on the instructor for not making it more suggestive. But my point being that undergraduate students are still developing the capacity of judging the quality of their own work in progress. To this extent, group-based asynchronous technologies help them build the confidence about their work as it allows them sufficient time and space to dialogue with their peers and collaboratively co-regulate their learning journey.
For Nicol, this process of comparison and generating internal feedback is inherent or innate to how our minds work all the time (Nicol, 2021). Furthermore, he and others realised that this internal process could be exploited to improve one’s feedback literacy, propelling oneself to become more proficient and agentic in setting future goals through improved self-efficacy (Reddy et al., 2021; Carless and Boud, 2018). Besides, a significant function of asynchronous platforms is that they offer ample opportunities for vicarious learning (Mayes, 2015) because of the ‘openness’ around these environments and the digital traces left by peers and teachers, that anyone can return to. This ongoing soundboard becomes a place of evolution and forges a sense of presence, propagating a virtual community of practice.
Inspired by my own positive experiences with the MSc Clin Ed teams’ feedback practices, which was well documented in a recent blog post↗️ by Tim Fawns and Jane Hislop, I have started to incorporate these platforms into my formative feedback practices, and I must say I really enjoy the efficiency and sustainability of these formats in terms of time and workload as I could address a large number of my students’ work in greater detail in a single digital file (Henderson et al., 2019). Furthermore, my students have been much more appreciative of these practices, which they have described as more human, engaging, and constructive to their learning process. From my perspective, I must confess they have buttressed my own feedback literacy, my notion of feedback has evolved. In a follow up blog post, I share my experience using an asynchronous platform by drawing from Nicol and MacFarlane’s feedback principles (Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick, 2006).
- CARLESS, D. & BOUD, D. 2018. The development of student feedback literacy: enabling uptake of feedback. Assessment and evaluation in higher education, 43, 1315-1325.
- DEELEY, S. J. 2018. Using technology to facilitate effective assessment for learning and feedback in higher education. Assessment and evaluation in higher education, 43, 439-448.
- HATTIE, J. & TIMPERLEY, H. 2007. The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.
- HENDERSON, M., PHILLIPS, M., RYAN, T., BOUD, D., DAWSON, P., MOLLOY, E. & MAHONEY, P. 2019. Conditions that enable effective feedback. Higher education research and development, 38, 1401-1416.
- NICOL, D. 2021. The power of internal feedback: exploiting natural comparison processes. Assessment and evaluation in higher education, 46, 756-778.
- NICOL, D. & MACFARLANE-DICK, D. 2006. Formative assessment and selfregulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education (Dorchester-on-Thames), 31, 199-218.
- REDDY, K., HARLAND, T., WASS, R. & WALD, N. 2021. Student peer review as a process of knowledge creation through dialogue. Higher education research and development, 40, 825-837.
- RYAN, T. 2018. Leveraging Technology to Support Effective Assessment Feedback Practices. Available from: https://blog.ascilite.org/leveraging-technology-to-support-effective-assessment-feedback-practices/.
- ZHU, Q. & CARLESS, D. 2018. Dialogue within peer feedback processes: clarification and negotiation of meaning. Higher Education Research & Development, 37, 883-897.
Dr Avita Rath is a year 3 distance learning student (MSc Clinical Education↗️) at Edinburgh Medical School, The University of Edinburgh. She is also a senior lecturer, academic coordinator and periodontist at the Faculty of Dentistry, SEGi University, Malaysia. She is a Common Wealth scholar, a Fellow in Advance Higher Education, UK (FHEA), and an Association of Medication Education in Europe (AMEE) member. Some of her research interests include equity, diversity and inclusivity issues in health professional education, mindfulness in dental education, and student engagement concepts. She would like to thank Kirstin Stuart James for her guidance in writing this blog and encouragement throughout the programme and especially during the ‘Teaching Online in Professional Context’ course.