Designing re-assessment policies to prioritise student reflection

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Abstract

Re-assessment is rarely discussed in the assessment literature, but can be a high-stakes event in student engagement and retention. This paper reports on the development and implementation of new re-assessment policies for doctoral-level modules over the last 18 months, an approach we call ‘reflection over correction’. Rather than conventional requirements that the original task be repeated or a new task with the same learning outcomes be set, students are instead asked to write a short reflective essay explaining how they will turn feedback from their failed attempt into feedforward.
While the opportunity to repeat or redraft assessments seems an intuitive way to support students by offering additional feedback and slowing the pace (Proud, 2014), it is not without its challenges, such as ensuring parity with the grades from single submissions (Scott, 2012) and ensuring that students put sufficient effort into their first attempt (Covic and Jones, 2008). Re-assessment also emphasises the need for dialogic feedback and additional emotional support if students are to see such events as beneficial for their learning rather than as punishment for poor performance (Carver, 2017; Mitchell et al., 2023). Thus, effective policies should ensure that all staff are committed to facilitating student improvement, shifting the perception of re-assessment from a 'touch up and paint' exercise to a meaningful learning opportunity. The advent of generative AI tools, which facilitate easy but superficial improvements to drafts, underscores the timeliness of revising re-assessment policies and task design guidelines.
As re-assessment is relatively uncommon, findings are based on a small number of students. However, early results are promising in terms of student articulation of longer-term learning aims and attitudes to revising their work. While such outcomes are most clearly linked to doctoral-level values (Trafford and Leshem, 2009), there may be merit in considering a similar approach at other levels of study. Our experience also helps to focus on the role of task design and policy on re-assessment experiences, an area typically overlooked as the re-assessment literature tends to focus on instructor feedback behaviours.
Our experience at St Andrews underscores the need for critical reflection on oft-overlooked re-assessment policies and their implications for assessor judgement at the pass/fail border, the extent to which feedback is dialogic or corrective, and whether a resubmission needs to satisfy all the stated learning outcomes or can focus on other aims. Our findings advocate for re-assessment procedures that prioritise reflective learning over correction, a principle well-suited to the current case of a doctoral programme in an education institute but also potentially applicable in various educational contexts. As the study continues, we consider implications for related policies such as formative assessment, standardisation, external examining, and adherence to constructive alignment guidelines.
Carver, M. (2017). Limitations of Corrective Feedforward: A Call for Resubmission Practices to Become Learning-Oriented. Journal of Academic Writing, 7(1): 1–15.
Covic, T., and Jones, M. K. (2008) ‘Is the essay resubmission option a formative or a summative assessment and does it matter as long as the grades improve?’ Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(1), 75–85
Mitchell, V., Borgstrom, E., Murphy, S., Campbell, C., Sieminski, S., & Fraser, S. (2023). Exploring the experiences of distance learning students being supported to resubmit a final assignment following a fail result. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-13.
Proud, S. (2014) ‘Resits in higher education: merely a bar to jump over, or do they give a pedagogical “leg up”?’ Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(5), 681–697.
Scott, E. P. (2012) ‘Short-term gain at long-term cost? How resit policy can affect student learning’. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, 19(4), 431–449.
Trafford, V., & Leshem, S. (2009). Doctorateness as a threshold concept. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(3), 305-316.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2023
EventHigher Education Institutional Research 2023: Addressing Equity in Higher Education Through Institutional Research - Kingston University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sept 20238 Sept 2023
https://www.heirnetwork.org.uk/heir2023/

Conference

ConferenceHigher Education Institutional Research 2023
Abbreviated titleHEIR 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityLondon
Period7/09/238/09/23
Internet address

Keywords

  • Reassessment
  • Doctoral education

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