Do students actually do Assessment For Learning (AFL) activities?  In my experience they only do work that is summatively assessed.

It seems true that assessment is the primary motivator for students.  However, students will do AFL activities if it is structured into the time allocated to the module and they can see that it has links that are clearly beneficial to their summative work. It is also about changing the culture of a programme so that students see this as accepted practice rather than a one off activity in a particular module.


Why don’t we assess and grade AFL activities if it is assessment which motivates them?

Feedback on AFL activities is most useful when it provides guidance on ‘how to improve’.  Grading the work simply confirms to students what they are already good at does not in itself help students to move beyond their current performance.


Won’t all this AFL activities and feedback mean a lot more work for me?

Incorporating work and feedback into a module is more about redeploying time than simply increasing time spent delivering and administrating the module.  In other words, embedding AFL activities is actually about rethinking both how to best use your time to assist the students in their learning and to help them structure independent study time.  And remember, not all feedback comes from you.


But can’t feedback on summative work be used for formative purposes?

To some extent feedback on summative work can be used for formative purposes in the sense of helping students improve.  However, its value is limited insofar as students need to be able to identify the transferable aspects of their feedback if it is a topic they will not revisit.  Only AFL activities are capable of generating the kind and quality of feedback which enables students to achieve within a module.


Should we really be helping students this much?  Surely a big part of getting a degree is about being able to ‘do it on your own.’

Yes, autonomy is often cited as a key marker of “graduateness” and our degree programmes, whatever the discipline, should work towards developing the skills of autonomous learning in students.  However, these are difficult skills to acquire and, as such, the development of them should not be left to chance.  Embedding AFL activities and feedback into all acts of learning helps to establish and promote a learning culture in which students can develop the skills of self-reflection and self-assessment, and thus do it on their own. Additionally there are ways in which to provide feedback that provides questions to students or points them to additional sources of information rather than redrafting students’ work.


There really isn’t any room in my programme for this type of activity, how I am supposed to fit it all in.

Higher Education should not be entirely focused on content and much of what we do should be about helping students learn. This then gives them the skills to become independent learner, able to source and evaluate their own knowledge.