Assessment for Learning: supporting post graduate students - Margo McKeever

Undertaking master’s level study can be daunting; perhaps even more so when it involves transition to a new academic discipline. This session reports on a practice development initiative undertaken to support post graduate students during such a transition.

The initiative ‘Feedback first’ was developed following in-depth qualitative interviews with a purposeful sample of students about their experience of writing for the first time in their new discipline. ‘Feedback first’ deviates in one important respect from the usual process of supervision and submission of academic work. Students submit a draft of their assignment and three weeks later, have the work returned together with written formative feedback/feed-forward. No mark is given at this stage. The students then have an opportunity to critically appraise their work in the light of the formative feedback and make any changes they consider appropriate before they finally submit the work for summative assessment. The aim of the initiative is to encourage students to actively engage with feedback, assignment criteria and guidelines during learning and enhance their learning and self assessment ability. As Black and Wiliam (1999) contend:

‘..teacher assessment which diagnoses students’ difficulties and provides constructive feedback leads to significant learning gains’.

This session will outline some of the findings of a participatory action research study undertaken to explore and evaluate the experience of students and staff of ‘Feedback first’. Within this presentation, findings from the first two action cycles will be discussed focusing specifically of the student experience of feedback first and impact of the initiative on subsequent academic work.


Black, P., and Wiliam, D. (1999) Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education 5 (1) 7-74





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Last Updated: 06/03/2015