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Harnessing assessment and feedback in the first year to support learning success, engagement and retention

By Sally M. Kift and Kim E. Moody


It has been argued that intentional first year curriculum design has a critical role to play in enhancing first year student engagement, success and retention (Kift, 2008). A fundamental first year curriculum objective should be to assist students to make the successful transition to assessment in higher education. Scott (2006) has identified that ‘relevant, consistent and integrated assessment … [with] prompt and constructive feedback’ are particularly relevant to student retention generally; while Nicol (2007) suggests that ‘lack of clarity regarding expectations in the first year, low levels of teacher feedback and poor motivation’ are key issues in the first year. At the very minimum, if we expect first year students to become independent and self-managing learners, they need to be supported in their early development and acquisition of tertiary assessment literacies (Orrell, 2005). Critical to this attainment is the necessity to alleviate early anxieties around assessment information, instructions, guidance, and performance. This includes, for example:\ud \ud inducting students thoroughly into the academic languages and assessment genres they will encounter as the vehicles for evidencing learning success; and\ud \ud making expectations about the quality of this evidence clear.\ud \ud Most importantly, students should receive regular formative feedback of their work early in their program of study to aid their learning and to provide information to both students and teachers on progress and achievement.\ud Leveraging research conducted under an ALTC Senior Fellowship that has sought to articulate a research-based 'transition pedagogy' (Kift & Nelson, 2005) – a guiding philosophy for intentional first year curriculum design and support that carefully scaffolds and mediates the first year learning experience for contemporary heterogeneous cohorts – this paper will discuss theoretical and practical strategies and examples that should be of assistance in implementing good assessment and feedback practices across a range of disciplines in the first year

Topics: 130299 Curriculum and Pedagogy not elsewhere classified, 130103 Higher Education, 130202 Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development, first year experience, transition pedagogy, assessment and feedback, assessment for learning, first year curriculum design, HERN
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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