Professor David Nicol

David Nicol is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at the University of Strathclyde. He was previously Deputy Director of the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE) and Director of REAP, the Re-Engineering Assessment Practices project (, a £1m project exploring how new technologies might support improved assessment practices across three Scottish Universities.

At the University of Strathclyde, over the period 1990-2010, David was involved in supporting innovation in assessment and feedback practices across all areas of the institution This work included collaborating with departments and faculties on innovations and educational improvement projects; leading the development of the university's assessment and feedback policy; helping formulate the university's graduate attribute policy, collaborating with the student body in devising a campaign to involve students more actively as responsible partners in assessment processes (e.g. the 'Feedback as Dialogue' initiative); delivering accredited programmes for academic staff and graduate teachng assistants on teaching, learning and assessment; and revising course and progamme approval processes so that they provide better information about the alignment of course provision including assessment with educational strategy.

Over the period 2007-2010 David was also employed by the QAA Scotland as a facilitator for Assessment and Feedback developments across the Scottish HE sector. He also led a project at Strathclyde on PEER processes in learning ( funded by the Joint Inforrmation Systems Committee (UK) and he jointly led the Principles in Patterns Project ( ) which also received funding from JISC. 

David's research and publications are in the areas of assessment and feedback, e-learning and on change management in higher education (see below).

Current Positions

Although retired from the University of Strathclyde, David still holds an Emeritus Professor role there. He is still working with academic departments on assessment and feedback projects that relate to his research and he also recently led a project funded by JISC callled 'Learning by Reviewing'.

Other current or recent formal positions include:

  • Visiting Professor of Higher Eduction at the University of Ulster attached to the Centre for Higher Education Practice [2012-2016]
  • Adjunct Professor, University of Swinburne, Australia [2013-2017]
  • Expert Consultant to the JISC UK in relation to its Assessment and Feedback programme. JISC provides leadership in the use of ICT in education and it receives funding from all the UK higher and further education funding councils [2011-2014]

Recent research and development activities include:

  • 2011-2014: Collaborator with the University of Cadiz and four Latin American Universities (Columbia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Ecudaor) on European funded ALPHA III project. The aims of the project are to help modernise assessment practices, to improve student retention, social cohesion and employability outcomes in Latin American higher education. The project draws on the findings of the REAP project.
  • 2011-2014: Expert consultant on assessment and feedback to the UK JISC in relation to 12 funded projects (£2.2m) that are piloting strategic changes in assessment and feedback across 12 UK higher education institutions.
  • 2011-2013: Co-director of the Learning by Reviewing project at the University of Strathclyde. The aim of the project is to package and disseminate the findings of the earlier PEER project by producing a 'how-to-guide' and materials for those wishing to implement student peer reviewing practices.
  • 2011-2012: Evaluation Consultant to the University of Ulster with regards to the VIEWPOINTS project an initiative to embed new ideas drawn from research about assessment and feedback into curriculum design practices and to change thinking and mindsets about assessment and feedback by seeding a new discourse.
  • 2011-2012: Consultant to the University of Swinburne, Australia with regards to their assessment and feedback strategy and developments regarding Swinburne Online and more recently in relation to the design of their new online accredited course for academic staff.

Prior consultancies have been with:

  • RSAMD in Glasgow on their teaching and learning strategy
  • University of Huddersfield on a review of their assessment and feedback work
  • University of Staffordshire on the development of an institution-wide set of assessment and feedback principles.
  • University of Belfast on their assessment and feedback strategies
  • University of Newcastle on assessment and feedback projects
  • Liverpool John Moores University on assessment and feedback strategy
  • Leeds Metropolitan University on their first year experience initiative
  • University of Bradford on their JISC funded PASS project


Recent keynotes/presenations on assessment and feedback have been provided at:

  • Aarhus University, Denmark. Presentation and discussion with Educational Developers.  Title of session 'Educational Developers as Change Agents: Using Learning Principles to foster institutions wide change, October 5 2015
  • Aarhus University, Denmark. Keynote entitled 'Seven principles of good feedback practice: putting feedback back into the hands of the user'.  Centre for Teaching and Learning: Business and Social Sciences.  2 October 2015. Effective Feedback Inspiration Day.  Also workshop Fostering Educational Change: Using the Viewpoints principles-based toolkit. 
  • Sheffield Hallam University: Keynote at Learning and Teaching Conference entitled 'Principles as discourse: A blueprint for Transformational Change in Assessment and Feedback'  15 September 2015.   see Also workshop on Unlocking Learners' Evaluative Skills: A Peer Review Perspective. See publication
  • ACM International Computing Education Research (ICER) Conference. Keynote: 'Unlocking learners evaluative skills: a peer review perspective'. University of Glasgow, 11 August 2014.
  • University of Surrey: 23 May 2014.  Learning and Teaching Week: Hosted by Departments of Higher and Technology Enhanced Learning.  Keynote: 'Unlocking learners evaluative skills: A peer review perspective'.  Also roundtable discussion entitled 'Research-informed principles-based change: recasting the educational discourse.
  • University of Durham: 12-13 February 2014.  Keynote: Enhancing Assessment and Feedback: Using the VIEWPOINTS toolkit. and Unlocking Learners Evaluative Skills: A peer review perspective.
  • JISC Assessment and Feedback Programme Meeting:  Presentation on 'Principles as Discourse' with Alan Masson, University of Ulster, 17 October 2013. see
  • Assessment Summit: organised by JISC RSC Scotland with participation from Scottish Qualifications Authority and Scottish College Development Network. Keynote and workshop activity with Alan Masson (University of Ulster) entitled 'Changing the discourse: talking the same language from assessment strategy through curriculum design to assessment delivery'. To be held Wednesday 27 March 2013. programme
  • University of Ulster, Presentation on Peer Review and workshop on how to implement peer review, 27 February 2013.
  • JISC Webinar Peer Review and the Development of Evaluative Skills 18 February 2013.  Recording available here
  • York St John University, Keynote at Annual Conference entitled 'Talking about Teaching' Title of presentation 'Feedback on learning: in the hands of the student' 25 January 2013.
  • Liverpool Hope University, Seminar at Centre for Pedagogy. Title: 'Feedback on learning: In the hands of the student'. 22 January 2013..
  • 'New Perspectives on Feedback' Conference, 28 June 2012, Oxford Brookes University
  • Dutch Special Interest Group on e-assessment, 5 June 2012, Contact Silvester Draaijer, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.
  • Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, Nottingham Trent University, 28 March 2012
  • JISC Webinar, Principles as discourse, March 20 2012, can be downloaded and listened to but requires use of blackboardelluminate it is here
  • JISC Webinar, Assessment and feedback: in the hands of the student, 23 January 2012 available at 
  • ATN Assessment Conference 'Meeting the Challenges' 20-21 October 2011 Curtin University, Perth see
  • University of Western Australia, 17 October 2011

Publications [a selection]

Nicol, D.J. & Clari, M. (2015) Recasting the educational discourse in higher education: A principles-based dscourse model of change.  To be published by JISC UK

Nicol, D (2014) Guiding principles of peer review: unlocking learners evaluative skills, In K. Kreber, C. Anderson, N. Entwistle and J. McArthur (eds). Advances and Innovations in University Assessment and Feedback, Edinburgh University Press (available on request from author)

Nicol, D (2013) Peer review: putting feedback processes in students' hands, Perspectives on Pedagogy and Practice, Journal of the Centre for Higher Education Practice, University of Ulster.

Nicol, D., Thomson, A. & Breslin, C.  (2014)  Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: A Peer Review Perspective, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 39:1, 102-122

Draper, S and Nicol, D (2013) Achieving transformational or sustainable educational change. In M. Price, S. Merry, D. Carless and M. Taras (eds) Reconceptualising feedback in higher education, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group

Nicol, D (2012) Resituating feedback from the reactive to the proactive. In D. Boud and L. Malloy (eds) Effective feedback in higher and professional education: understanding it and doing it well. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

Nicol. D (2011) Good designs for written feedback. In: Svinicki, M and McKeachie, W J (eds) Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theories for College and University Teachers. 13th edition. International edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 13:9780495812340 (Available from the author on request, please email

Nicol, D (2011) Developing the students' ability to construct feedback, Published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Available here

Nicol, D (2010) The foundation for graduate attributes: developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. Published by The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available here 

Nicol, D (2010) From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback in mass higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 35(5) pps 501 -517 [Note: The editors of this journal have decided to create a book of this special issue and to include this paper in that book]

Nicol, D (2010) Four recent papers on assessment and feedback with significant implications for practice. QAA Scotland Enhancement Themes. Graduates for the 21st Century. Full Text

Nicol, D and Draper, S (2009) A blueprint for transformational organisational change in higher education: REAP as a case study. In: Mayes, T; Morrison, D; Meller, H; Bullen, P and Oliver, M (eds) Education through technology-enhanced learning. Higher Education Academy. ISBN 978-1-907207-11-2. Full Text

Nicol, D. (2009), Assessment for learner self-regulation: Enhancing achievement in the first year using learning technologies. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 34 (3) pps 335 -352. [Note: This paper was one of the top twenty cited papers in this journal over the period 2005-2011]

Nicol, D and Owen, C (2009) Re-engineering assessment practices: A matrix for curriculum and institutional change. Educational Developments, 10(2), pps 5-10 (Available from the authors on request, please email

Nicol, D. (2009) Transforming assessment and feedback: enhancing integration and empowerment. Published by The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Full Text

Nicol, D (2008), Technology-supported assessment: A review of research. Upublished manuscript. Full Text

Nicol, D. (2007). Laying a foundation for lifelong learning: case studies of e-assessment in large 1st-year classes. British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), 668–678.

Nicol, D. (2007). E-assessment by design: using multiple-choice tests to good effect. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(1), pp. 53–64. [Note: This paper was the second highest cited article in this journal averaged over the period 2004-09]

Nicol, D. (2007). Principles of good assessment and feedback: theory and practice. From the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007.

Breslin, C., Nicol, D., Grierson, H., Wodehouse, Juster, N. and Ion, W (2007) Embedding an integrated learning environment and digital repository in design engineering education: lessons learned for sustainability, British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(5), 805-816

Draper, S. & Nicol, D. J. (2006). Transformation in e-learning. Short paper corresponds to a talk given at ALT-C, Edinburgh, Sept 5-9, 2006.

Nicol, D. J. (2006). Increasing success in first year courses: assessment re-design, self-regulation and learning technologies. Paper to be presented at ASCILITE Conference, Sydney, Dec 3-6, 2006

Nicol, D. J. & Milligan, C. (2006). Rethinking technology-supported assessment in terms of the seven principles of good feedback practice. In C. Bryan and K. Clegg (Eds), Innovative Assessment in Higher Education, Taylor and Francis Group Ltd, London

Nicol, D.J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218 [Note: This paper had the largest number of downloads from this journal in 2010. It was also the most cited article averaged over the period 2002-10]

McGill, L., Nicol, D., Littlejohn, A., Grierson, H., Juster, N. and Ion, W (2005) Creating an information rich environment to enhance design learning: challenges and approaches, British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(4), 629-641.

Nicol, D., Littlejohn, A., Grierson, H. (2005) The importance of structuring information and resources within shared workspaces during collaborative design learning, Open Learning, 20(1), 31-49.

Nicol, D. and MacLeod, I. (2004)  Using shared workspaces and wireless laptops to improve collaborative project learning in an engineering design class, Computers & Education, 44(4), 559-575.

Nicol,D.J. & Boyle, J. T. (2003) Peer Instruction versus Class-wide Discussion in large classes: a comparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom. Studies in Higher Education 28(4), 457-473.

Boyle, J. T. & Nicol,D.J. (2003) Using classroom communication systems to support interaction and discussion in large class settings. ALT-J - Association for Learning Technology Journal 11(3), 43-57.

Nicol, D., Minty, I. and Sinclair, C. (2003), The social dimensions of online learning, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 40(3), 270-280.

Nicol, D.J. & Coen, M. (2003) The importance of cost-benefit analysis: a response, Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11(3), 122-124.

Nicol, D.J. & Coen, M. (2003) A model for evaluating the institutional costs and benefits of ICT initiatives in teaching and learning in higher education. ALT-J - Association for Learning Technology Journal. 11(2), 46-60.