Feeding back to feed forward: formative assessment as a platform for effective learning

Lucy Wheatley, Alex McInch, Scott Fleming, Rhiannon Lord

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Students construct meaning through relevant learning activities (Biggs, 2003) which are largely determined by the type, amount, and timing of feedback (Carless, 2006). The aim of the present study was to develop a greater awareness and understanding of formative assessment and feedback practices and their relationship with learning. During 2011 five focus group discussions were undertaken with students and academic staff involved with a range of modules and degree pathways at a UK University. Three of the focus groups were with undergraduate students (one at each level of study), and one was with taught postgraduate students. Discussions focussed on integration of formative assessment and feedback into modules, as well as an exploration of the effectiveness of feedback on future learning. The findings revealed that in order to emphasise continuous learning – feeding back to feed forward (Rushton, 2005) – and to encourage self-regulated learning (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006), students need to have opportunities to make mistakes and to learn from them prior to summative assessment (through formative assessment and feedback). There was also firm evidence of different approaches to learning, emphasising in particular the transitional importance of the first year of study as the foundation upon which future achievement is built.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages30
JournalKentucky Journal of Higher Education Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Feedback
  • Formative assessment
  • Higher education
  • Learning


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