Feed-forward Your Feedback

Feedforward Your FeedbackAssessment in education gets a lot of attention in research and at conferences but, in practice, many of us are still missing the mark in providing students with what they need to learn effectively. Recent research in the UK showed that students are more dissatisfied with assessment and feedback than any other aspect of their learning experience. The response of UK educators and several of the leading universities has been to develop a “feedforward” approach to assessment and feedback and to encourage and assist teachers to develop better skills in implementing formative assessment practices that focus on a developmental approach to student learning.

Assessment Pyramid

Reconfigured Pyramid

In Canada, educational leaders in Canada talk about  “flipping” the traditional Assessment Pyramid, which illustrated the appropriate proportions of different kinds of assessment:  assessment AS learning, assessment FOR learning and assessment OF learning.  Assessment of learning refers to summative assessment, used to make decisions or to provide grades or accreditation. This type of assessment usually forms the largest section of the pyramid. Assessment for learning refers to the kinds of assessment a teacher uses to keep track of student learning; it provides information that helps teachers plan what to do next. Assessment AS learning generally forms the smallest part of the assessment that takes place in a classroom (or online) and refers to formative assessment.  Dr. Lorna Earle was one of the first researchers/ practitioners (2003) to propose flipping the pyramid and making assessment AS learning the largest part of the pyramid and a base for student success. In her new book, “Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximize Student Learning” Earle proposes that student learning will improve if both teacher and student know where they are going and how to get there (a “feedforward” perspective).

So, how can you improve feedback and assessment in your online classroom? Most of the suggestions and techniques from the UK and North America can be adapted to different learning environments. The most important thing is to evaluate your current mix of assessment and feedback strategies and to identify ways you might integrate a stronger focus on learning as a process and providing timely, constructive feedback that includes a “future development” focus for students.

Suggestions for reflective questions about your assessment/feedback practice:

  • What proportion of time do I spend on providing feedback about each student’s progress along the learning continuum I anticipate in my course?
  • How often do I provide feedback… to individual students or to the class?
  • Do I provide opportunities for students to share their ideas about improving assessment processes or the feedback I provide?
  • Are my messages clear and concise – both in explaining how to complete assessable activities and in the feedback I share?
  • How meaningful is the feedback I provide? Do I clearly identify the learning achievements (in terms of course objectives or future course activities), identify gaps and indicate how a student can improve in the near future?
  • Does my feedback help students to develop metacognitive skills? Do I provide opportunities for students to reflect and assess their own learning?

If you’re interested in improving your skills and your approaches to assessment and feedback, check out the “Feedforward Assignments” or the “New Ways of Giving Feedback” from University of Edinburgh.

Improving your assessment and feedback practices will help to keep students engaged in learning and to persist in online and face-to-face classroom environments. If you want to read and explore these ideas in more detail over your summer holidays, browse the resources and readings from the Center for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck University of London “Giving Feedback and Encouraging Feed-forward



About Cloudsyl

Now a mid-Island observer of the Cloud
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