What do we mean?

Assessment for Learning (AfL) is an approach that recognises that assessment motivates and develops individual knowledge and skills as well as validating student achievement. It is intimately linked with the process of giving and receiving feedback which students understand, engage with, and act upon to improve their future performance.

Results from the National Student Survey and many other valuable sources of student feedback tell us that our students are less satisfied with assessment and feedback than they are with other aspects of their learning and wider student experience at the University of Bath. This can seem frustrating as we know that there are many examples of really excellent assessment and feedback across the University.

Recent analysis of our NSS feedback, and similar work which has been undertaken at other institutions, has revealed that many of students’ perceived shortcomings of assessment and feedback could be overcome through better communication between staff and students about feedback opportunities and the way in which their assessments are marked. By entering into a dialogue with students about assessment and feedback on their units, and across their course, we can improve the clarity of what we expect from them in assessments and how formative feedback (or feedforward) will help them to improve both within a unit and through their course.

Some specific tips are provided below to assist you in explaining to students how their assessments will be marked; what feedback will be provided and when; and how this feedback can help them improve within a unit and through their course.

The tips below for enhancing students' understanding of assessment and engagement with feedback draw on the Understand, Engage, Act (UEA) principles. This builds on a 2020/21 TDF project that brought together students and staff at Bath to uncover differences in their experiences and expectations of assessment feedback. The focus is specifically on developing students' feedback literacy where both teachers and students share a common understanding of effective feedback practice (see Evans, 20132016; Wong, 2019). Key to this is allowing space for students to talk, discuss, ask questions, and practice in a supported environment. This approach builds on a wealth of research highlighting that for feedback to support student learning, it is critical that students actively engage with and act on it (Winstone and Nash, 2016), acknowledging that barriers, such as not understanding or knowing how to interpret feedback, often mean students feel unable to act (Jonsson, 2013).

Download Top Tips PDF




Further information

For further information about developing your approach to assessment and feedback, you may be interested in our these pages:

Online summative assessment

Online summative assessment

Summative assessment should provide students with the opportunity to showcase their best learning, and this is no different for summative assessments that are carried out online.

Read more