The importance of feedback

The concept of feedback for a BTEC assignment is one, which is completed with much dread and anticipation by most centre assessors. What is the requirement of feedback and how much feedback are we required to provide?
The answer to this is very often one which most people do not like as it adds to the already heavy administrative burden of any BTEC programme. However, maybe by looking beyond what we have to include within the feedback we can get lost in this task.
For the QCF qualification we are only required to provide summative feedback, although for those of us who have more recently started to deliver the Next Generation course we now have to consider the additional feedback requirement of formative assessment.
To start with let’s address the difference and what Edexcel require to see for each type of feedback (especially for Next Generation Assessors).

Formative Feedback

Formative assessment involves both the Assessor and the learner in a conversation about their progress and takes place prior to summative assessment. Most assessors within centres have been doing this since they have been teaching BTEC qualifications or any qualifications which require learners to complete coursework. The main function of formative assessment is to provide feedback to enable the learner to make improvements or attain a higher grade. This feedback should be prompt so it has meaning and context for the learner and time must be given following the feedback for actions to be complete. Learners are provided with formative feedback during the process of assessment and are empowered to act to improve their performance.
Feedback on formative assessment must be constructive and provide clear guidance and actions for improvement. At this stage, the assessor should not be confirming achievement of specific assessment criteria. Instead feedback should be around progress on completion of tasks and direction provided for those learners who seem to be going off track with the task(s) of the assignment.
In some centres it has been reported that they are happy for learners to only achieve a Pass grade and are not interested in aiming higher and are therefore not encouraged to attempt higher grades. This is deemed as poor assessment practice and if spotted by a Standards Verifier during sampling can trigger further external scrutiny. Assessment tasks should be challenging rather than easily achievable, differentiated by outcome so that they stretch the most able but are open to lower achieving learners. Tasks which are developed by centre assessors should guide the learners through the assessment criteria as appropriate for each task. In instances when a task targets pass, merit and distinction criteria the task itself should guide the learner towards each of these criterion.
The role of feedback in motivating learners must not be underestimated. Feedback should outline what can be done to move the unit grade forward. This is much easier to achieve if formative assessment for learning has developed evidence towards summative assessment.
No more than two opportunities for formative assessment should be necessary and this will help Assessors to manage their assessment work load and avoid “ping-pong assessment” and the risk of malpractice.

Summative Feedback

Summative assessment is a final assessment decision on an assignment tasks and this should be made relation to the evidence provided by each learner against the targeted assessment criteria of each assignment or each unit. The summative assessment feedback should be the definitive assessment and recording of the learner’s achievement. This should be completed on a formal Assessment Front Sheet. The Assessors should annotate where the evidence supports their grading decisions against the unit assessment criteria throughout the evidence which has been submitted by the learner.
Particularly for the Next Generation qualification it is not expected that learners will be offered opportunities to revisit assignments at this stage of the assessment process unless approved by the Lead Internal Verifier. Learners will need to be familiar with the assessment criteria to be able to understand the quality of what is required. After the agreement of a resubmission from the Lead Internal verifier, learners should be informed of the differences between the assessment criteria so that higher skills can be achieved.
At a summative level it is important that assessor provides criteria based feedback – this means for each of the criteria targeted within an assessment the assessor should provide a commentary as to whether the learner has met the requirements of the criteria targeted within the assessment or not. The feedback should not be ‘well done you have described the skills of a sports leader’ or subsequently ‘at present you have not described the skills of a sports leader’ . The feedback which is provided to the learner should detail how they have met the requirement of the criterion. For example ‘well done you clearly compared the skills of sports leader through highlighting within your conclusion the similarities and differences of Alex Ferguson and Hope Powell’
The big challenge when giving feedback is when giving feedback to those learners who have not met the criterion targeted within the assessment. It is important when giving this learner feedback that you follow the SMART method of target setting.
Specific – Ensure that the feedback provided is specific, again do not simply state that learners have not met the criterion inform them of why they have not met the criterion and what they need to do to meet the criterion in full.
Measureable – ensure that learners are aware exactly what they are required to do and where possible draw upon previous examples from their work when they have met the requirements of a particular active verb or draw upon examples from within the evidence which they have submitted as to how they partially met the requirements of the targeted criterion (where relevant).
Achievable – it is important that the language you use in your feedback is set at an appropriate level. Sometimes the level of language provided within the specification is set at the level of the qualification. It is therefore important that within the feedback to learners we break the language down and we do not simply inform the learners that they have to analyse their performance but we tell them that they need to break down their performance and look at the good parts of the performance and the areas for development and then consider methods which could be followed to improve their performance.
Recordable – we must ensure that we always record feedback using formal summative assessment feedback forms. We should also ensure that learners receive additional feedback forms on final submissions. When this is the case please always ensure that the original feedback form is stapled to the re-submitted front sheet (this is for auditing purposes).
Timed – when providing actions points for learners always ensure that a timescale is provided regarding when they have to have submitted the actions for. This then provides an agreement between the assessor and learner.
It is important to note that for all those who are now delivering the NQF level 2 BTEC programmes that changes have been made to the number of submissions allowed after summative feedback has taken place. It is therefore very important that the level of feedback which is provided at first submission is thorough and very supportive for learners.
Good Luck