Formative feedback is an important aspect of the learning process, for both the student and the lecturer. Formative assessment allows students to assess how well they are understanding the course content, as well as providing them with an opportunity to practice answering questions to prepare them for their exam (constructive alignment). As a lecturer, I have found formative assessment very valuable as it allows me to track students’ progress (especially to determine at-risk students) and to assess how I need to adjust lectures.
Below are a few examples of formative feedback I have made use of:
The Site Planning course had two sessions each week – one theory/lecture session and one tutorial session. Each week I would lecture on a particular topic, and during the tutorial session later in the week, students would attend a tutorial session where they were required to work through a set of questions and exercises based on that week’s lecture (see an example of a Tutorial). The students had a couple of days to complete the tutorial, which they would then submit for formative assessment. Some students struggled with the work and those who failed the week’s tutorial were given the opportunity to redo the tutorial. If I noticed that a particular student was struggling with a concept I would write a note encouraging the student to speak to me about that question during the next tutorial session.
Other than formative feedback, I found that the tutorial sessions were particularly valuable for several reasons:
- students were more confident to ask questions during a tutorial session than a lecture
- tutorials enabled me to interact with students in small groups where it is more easy to gauge if individual students are grasping the concept or not
- tutorials provided an opportunity for learning from peers or working with peers to understand the content
The Landscape Technology course is primarily a design studio where students are given design tasks and must complete a set of drawings and/or models for each particular task. Because the deadlines are often once a month or so, students are encouraged to see a lecturer at least twice a week (there were 3-4 lecturers available for this). Each student had a “comment sheet” that was filled in by the lecturers with whom they had crits. This comment sheet was then submitted with every deadline or hand-in.
Although I did not design or implement this formative assessment system (it has been in place for a couple of years), I actively took part in it and provided students with opportunities for design crits by posting consultation timetables outside my office (see below). Self-assessment and peer assessment
I felt particularly encouraged by a TDP session on formative feedback to make use of self-assessment and peer formative feedback. One of the courses I have been lecturing in the seond semester has a large project due at the end of the semester. Each week the students are required to submit a section of the work for feedback. I found that some students were not following instructions or that I was repeating comments to multiple students about items that were missing from their hand-ins. I started including a “checklist” for students to read through and tick off and submit with their work. This was not entirely successful as it requires students to read and work through the checklist while completing their assignment, and not to tick off every item regardless if it was completed or not. My next strategy is once students have submitted their assignment, they will be required to assess it (using a rubric) as well assess the work of a peer.