Feedback isn’t just a ‘thing’: Using TESTA and Activity Theory to enhance assessment practice and experience

Neil Lent, Hazel Marzetti

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Assessment and feedback practice has been explored in detail over the last two decades. Evidence suggests that assessment and feedback are best viewed as dialogic processes enabling students to be independent, self-regulated learners (eg: Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006). Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick outlined seven principles for self-regulated learning that look like a straightforward set of steps to enhance self-regulation. Even with this clarity, many struggle to successfully implement these principles ‘on the ground’ within modules and programmes. Institutions can implement rules and regulations around assessment and feedback practices such as specific turnaround times for return of feedback, regular formative assessment before summative assessments, and diversifying assessments for lifelong, sustainable learning (Boud & Soler, 2016) without fully understanding how these will work in context. Such measures tend to focus on structure, often treat feedback as a commodity rather than a process that reinforces a consumerist model of education that we argue should be avoided. Such policies, applied at institutional level, may not work in specific contexts and despite these efforts, many students still report that they have not found their feedback or assessment any more helpful to their learning.We propose that the progress towards enhancement of assessment and feedback using Nicol and Marfarlane-Dick’s seven principles is not so much a ‘technical’ challenge, but more about understanding assessment and feedback practices in relation to both structure and cultural practices in particular contexts. We outline an approach we are applying at programme level. We have adapted adapted TESTA ( methodology to provide detailed information on assessment together with experiential data from staff and students. We use this information to try and understand the gap between staff perspectives, students’ perspectives, and actual assessment and feedback practices. We will illustrate how combining this detailed information with Cultural and Historical Activity Theory (Engestrom, 1999) can enable current practice to be understood, how enhancements can be made and also how progress towards enhancement can be gauged.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017
EventInternational Assessment in Higher Education Conference - MacDonald Hotel, Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 201729 Jun 2017
Conference number: 6


ConferenceInternational Assessment in Higher Education Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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