The reflective and empowered learner: building student engagement with formative assessment practices


Dr Stylianos Hatzipanagos, King’s Learning Institute, King’s College London

Research team:

Professor Paul Black, Emeritus Professor, Department of Education, KCL
Dr Ana Lucena, Institute of Education
Professor Bob McCormick, Department of Education, Open University
Dr Steven Warburton, School of Law, KCL

TRA4 S Hatzipanagos (Final Report) [pdf, 175kb]



The project identified students’ perceptions about assessment in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) environments and explored and compared attitudes to assessment amongst students. The findings have the potential to promote understanding of the significance of assessment practices on student performance. The findings will also help academics (tutors, course designers and programme leaders) to reflect and consider a range of different approaches to assessment that may be integrated into distance learning environments and improve the use of learning technologies available to better support the teaching and learning process.

Student data from three ODL environments — King’s College London, UoL (external programmes) and the Open University – were collected and compared. A key focus was establishing whether assessment activities in such environments are used to improve dialogue, interaction and collaborative work and consequently improve learning, and how these activities are perceived by the students. Different disciplines use different approaches to assessment and comparison of approaches can lead to a cross-fertilisation of good practice across the different disciplines/institutions under scrutiny.

This research built on previous research, funded by an earlier Teaching and Research Award, about teaching practitioners’ perceptions of assessment (“Closing the loop: identifying effective formative assessment practices and feedback processes that empower the learner and enhance the student experience in ODL”), to look at assessment from the students’ point of view.

The exploration resulted in the following main achievements. The project:

  • promoted an understanding of the significance of formative assessment in ODL by establishing and comparing attitudes to assessment amongst students.
  • put forward a conceptual model of formative assessment based on the literature and explored whether this model has any implications for learning and teaching in ‘real’ environments.
  • identified examples of good practice of formative assessment in ODL environments.
  • examined how formative assessment can be made to work purposefully within the specific constraints of ODL environments
  • identified current feedback practices and examined whether and how these practices support formative assessment

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