Theory and Practice

The Theory and Practice pages of this website provide a framework for thinking about assessment and feedback in higher education and ideas about how to improve practices based on published research and on the experiences of different stakeholders in higher education.

The theoretical perspective underpinning this website is that assessment and feedback practices should enable students to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and help develop their capacity to make evaluative judgements about the quality and impact of their own work, both during and after its production. Through their higher education experiences, students must develop the confidence and competence to become self-regulated learners.

In order to acquire these attitudes and skills, students will need regular opportunities to make judgements about quality in relation to standards.  In mass higher education this will require capitalising on peer evaluation processes, where students review and make comment on each other’s work and on self-assessment processes where students review and make judgements about the quality of their own work (see Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006, JISC, 2010, Nicol, 2010).  REAP and PEER, two projects led by the University of Strathclyde, are specific examples of initiatives intended to embed the development of learner self-regulation in modules and programmes. However, REAP and PEER and any local initiatives must be seen in the wider context of the whole institution if progress in new practices is to be embedded and sustainable.

In order to enhance assessment and feedback practice in higher education a single focus or approach will not suffice. A multi-strategy approach is required across the whole institution.  The following areas will need to be addressed:

  • A framework for conceptualising assessment and feedback
  • Policies and strategies to support and guide changes in practice
  • Initiatives to support enhanced course design and new thinking in departments and faculties
  • Initiatives to engage students as active partners in assesment and feedback processes
  • Course documentation and quality assurance processes aligned to new policies and practices

Theory and Practice provides a range of resources to support improved assessment and feedback practices in higher education. These resources will be useful to different stakeholders, senior managers, teachers, students and those with an interest in quality assurance and quality enhancement.  

At a glance

Policy and Strategy

UK National Student Survey

Involving Students

Easy to Implement Ideas

Documentation and Quality Assurance

  • The PiP project