Practitioner Enquiry

Rebecca Rhodes
Curriculum Manager - Psychology Assessment for Learning:


What- no grades?!
Are A2 Psychology students able to improve their essay writing skills purely on the basis of feedback through marking (oral and written)?



  • To establish whether A2 students could improve their essay writing skills if they were provided with detailed and specific feedback (orally [one-to-one] and written)
  • To ascertain whether A2 students could improve their essay writing skills if targets were set and they had allotted time to improve upon their work
  • To see if A2 students (who are not given grades) will begin to focus on assessments as a learning process and regard them as less threatening

Key actions

  • One A2 class became the Action Research class (AR) which was decided randomly.
  • Assessments throughout the year were returned promptly, receiving detailed written feedback
  • Students were then provided with class time to read through the feedback, and were then spoken to on a one-to-one basis discussing the feedback and setting targets
  • Each student re-submitted work based around the targets set
  • The entire process involved the student completing several questionnaires reflecting upon their initial work, their targets and their resubmissions
  • A beginning and end of course questionnaire was completed measuring any shift in attitude towards formative assessment

Key findings

  • Depending on the personality of each student, grades can be detrimental or beneficial. They can motivate students or they can lead to learned helplessness
  • Students who were used to getting high grades were most frustrated by getting only feedback. They felt uncertain about whether their work was of a high enough standard. Their desire for a grade was a way of reaffirming their ego and self image.
  • Students appreciate detailed feedback, they are just unaware of how to engage with it
  • Motivation is vital. The students admitted they weren’t overly motivated to re-submit work thus the benefits of this were never fully realised
  • Students need more time to work through assessments so that they work for them and are perceived as a learning process rather than as a threat
  • The most effective form of feedback must provide students with steps on how to improve rather than simply being evaluative
  • Students want to be given feedback verbally in a one-to-one situation as it allows them to clarify areas of concern, to share personal insight and most importantly, it makes it more private for each student and that their work and progress is valued
  • Feedback is only beneficial if students are given the opportunity to ‘act upon’ what advice and guidance has been given. Often students are passive once assessments are returned to them, which defeats the entire learning process

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