The National Student Survey (NSS) provides students in their final year of undergraduate study with the opportunity to reflect on their Higher Education experience and offer their views on a number of different areas including teaching, learning opportunities, academic support and learning resources.
The section on assessment and feedback is notoriously known as the area that most institutions score lowest on. In 2023 the survey asks students to consider the following four questions: How clear were the marking criteria used to assess your work’? How fair has the marking and assessment been on your course? How well have assessments allowed you to demonstrate what you have learned? How often does feedback help you to improve your work? One prevalent issue identified by students is the perceived lack of timely and constructive feedback, where students express frustration over delayed responses or generic comments that do not provide meaningful guidance for improvement. Addressing this issue is of key interest to staff.
In the following video case study (16 minutes 42 seconds) Adam Phillips, Head of Digital Education for the School of Pharmacy, talks about the work the MPharm team have been doing to ensure their students receive their feedback in a timely and accessible manner. The MPharm team involved in creation of the feedback tracker includes Dr John Malkinson (MPharm Programme Director), Dr Audrey Mercer (Associate Professor of Pharmacology) and Professor Rebecca Lever (Professor of Pharmacology).
What we did and why
The Integrated Therapeutics wiki project is an assessment within the year 4 PHAY0060 research project module that requires students to bring together information from previously taught topics within the MPharm course into a “wiki-style format with hyperlinks which will present all the pertinent information in a continuous and contextualised format“. Each of the 60 students is assigned five topics with which to create wiki pages, by the project’s conclusion these pages interlink forming a comprehensive and interconnected concept map.
To support the assessment the MPharm team have designed a feedback tracker system. This PDF-based system displays essential information such as summative elements, coursework start and submission dates, and feedback due dates. A status column ensures clarity on feedback readiness, marked by green for on-time completion and red for late feedback. The responsibility section in the tracker fosters collaborative marking by outlining individuals responsible for feedback. This prevents delays and ensures a smooth transition of responsibilities, aided by a shared marking spreadsheet on Teams. The project is divided into milestones, each with clear criteria emphasising collaboration. Minimum edit days are established to deter last-minute submissions and a milestone map provides the students with a structured approach. The marking process incorporates a detailed rubric featuring criteria intersections with descriptions. This transparency all aids in discussions on borderline cases, and facilitates fair and accurate grading.
Feedback is provided directly into the Gradebook, which is configured to display milestones and their weights. This allows students to track their progress and contributions to the overall course grade. Students receive individualised feedback along with cohort-wide feedback and statistics. The latter includes comparisons with previous cohorts, providing context for their performance.
When those due dates are getting closer and nothing has been posted, they (the students) are very good at emailing and reminding the module leaders that nothing has been posted. It may well be that the module leader is well aware of these facts, but it’s just a good piece of evidence to say the students are paying attention and do really value the information that is inside of those feedback trackers.
The feedback tracker has been well-received by students and resulted in impressive NSS scores in the area of assessment and feedback by the School of Pharmacy. Adam and the team are now looking at how they can better embed this process in to Moodle and standardise the process for staff.