Consistency v autonomy: effective feedback to a very large cohort

Chetwynd, Frances and Dobbyn, Chris (2012). Consistency v autonomy: effective feedback to a very large cohort. In: STEM Annual Conference 2012: Aiming for excellence in STEM learning and teaching, 12-13 Apr 2012, Imperial College London.



In this paper, we report on an on-going project to change the culture of tutor feedback at the Open University, based on a new Level 1 Computing and IT module, My Digital Life, which currently has 4000 students enrolled, supported and assessed by a network of over 200 regional tutors.

At Level 1, effective feedback on assessment is essential for students’ retention and progression. However, the OU’s need to deal with such large cohorts has led to an assessment culture that tends towards consistency across multiple markers, with highly prescriptive marking guides, heavily geared to the allocation of marks, rather than encouraging tutors to provide focussed and constructive feedback. The project attempts to redress the balance towards tutor autonomy with a new style of assessment material, intended to develop students’ core skills and self-directed, reflective learning, and a new style of marking guides, focussed on promoting future-altering feedback. This new strategy is being evaluated through structured interviews with a group of tutors.

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