Examinations, assessment and feedback

My students have just finished their preliminary school examinations before they do the major external final examinations. We have students do prelim exams for a number of reasons:

  • as summative assessment that tells the student where they are in their learning at one particular time.-Assessment that summarizes the development of the student at a particular time. What the student knows or doesn’t know
  • to prepare them for examinations and to develop appropriate examination technique
  • to provide formative feedback that identifies areas of strength and weakness in their understanding and application of the course of learning – Assessment that is interpreted and used to give directions or make decisions about next steps in learning process

For me the formative aspect of the examinations is the most important, it is assessment for learning. To make an examination useful we have to be able to give our students strong formative feedback. Hattie in his book Visible learning, identifies the importance and power of timely, effective, learning focus feedback.

So what is strong feedback? Dr Jodie Nyquist has a model that I really like for this and I have blogged it before

So the strongest and most effective formative feedback comes when the students have knowledge of their results, knowledge of the correct results, an explanation as to why the results are correct and an immediate activity to reinforce this.

A Recent publication from DET in Australia on feedback provides a nice framework that matches with Jodie Nyquist’s model.

Step 1INFORMATION about what happened or was done
Nyquist – Knowledge of results and Knowledge of correct results
Step 2An EVALUATION of how well or otherwise the action or task was performed
Nyquist - Explanation
Step 3GUIDANCE as to how the performance can be improved
Nyquist – Specific actions to reduce the gap and activity

Based on Modified and adapted from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/assessment/prolearn/index.htm

The outcome of an assessment, be it an examination, test or assignment should be an improvement in learning. To maximise the learning opportunities we need to provide them, our learners, with feedback on what they did, an evaluation of the task and feed forward what they can do in the future.


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