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You are here: Home Administrative Committees Teaching Committee Meetings 28 November 2012 Timing for Return of Coursework

Timing for Return of Coursework

I propose we make the following changes to our policy on timing and return of coursework.

  • Relax the current policy of a two-week turnaround for all coursework to follow what we actually publicise to students, and current practice, which is that while two weeks is usual arrangements may differ for some assignments.
  • Increase the information staff routinely provide for all coursework to meet the University Feedback Standards & Guiding Principles by requiring that all course web pages list when and how coursework will given out, due in, and returned with feedback.

The rest of this paper gives some background on these items and identifies specific changes of policy wording.

Feedback timing

In 2008 this committee agreed a policy for coursework feedback which made no allowance for different kinds of task:

The School attempts to provide students with written feedback on each course work assignment within two weeks of submission.

The statement we make to students on the Coursework, Assessment and Feedback web page is more generous:

As a student you will usually receive marks and feedback on Informatics coursework within two weeks of submission. Arrangements may be different for particular pieces of work: for example if the work is substantial, such as an extended essay; or the class is very large.

I propose that we adopt this practice as our policy, and replace the text in the marking guidelines given to staff.

Coursework information

University policy on feedback, set in June 2010 and confirmed in May 2012, states among other things:

3. Course and programme documentation (e.g. the course handbook or website) must inform students when, where and how feedback is offered in the course concerned.
At the moment we have no School policy on providing this information. I propose we extend our guidelines for staff to say that:

All course web pages should specify for each piece of coursework:

Start How the assignment will be distributed, as well as the day by which it will be available and sufficient material will have been covered in the course for students to begin work.
Submit The day and time by which work must be submitted, and the method for submission.
Return The day by which marks and feedback will be returned to students, and the form this feedback will take.

In all cases the events can in practice happen earlier: coursework may be put online before the start date, students may submit earlier than the submission deadline, and work may be returned sooner than the final return day.

Coursework should normally be distributed by placing it on the course web page. Submission should normally be to the ITO collection box for assignments on paper and via the submit command otherwise. Both of these methods log each submission and its arrival time.

Deadlines should normally be 16:00, and always within 10:00–16:00 Monday–Friday.

Links: Staff guide to the submit system; Information for students on Coursework, Assessment and Feedback in Informatics

The linked page giving information to students also highlights that assessment and feedback may take many different forms, not just written comments on individual work.

My intention in asking for this information on course web pages is that these are generally under lecturers' immediate control and directly serve several audiences: students, who might compare assignments across courses and plan accordingly; other lecturers, particular year organisers and personal tutors; and the ITO, who use this information to guide data collection culminating in the presentation of marks to the Board of Examiners.

Although at first sight apparently low-tech, where course web pages are held under CVS on the Informatics web servers they already have facilities one might want for this kind of information management, such as controlled editing by multiple authors and timed logs of all changes.

University Feedback Standards

The University Senate has agreed a set of Feedback Standards and Guiding Principles, most recently confirmed in May 2012. There are eight standards and ten principles. I've listed the standards; the principles are considerably more detailed, so I've linked below to the full document and its source.

Feedback Standards

1. Feedback is integral to course design. Every course and programme will provide opportunities for students to get feedback on their ongoing performance and achievements.

2. Effective feedback is prompt, informative, helpful and acted upon.

3. Course and programme documentation (e.g. the course handbook or website) must inform students when, where and how feedback is offered in the course concerned.

4. Assessment expectations, standards and marking criteria will be clearly communicated to students, with opportunities for discussion, to enable them to understand and interpret feedback.

5. Students will also be advised on how, when and where they can best make use of the feedback provided to optimise their learning.

6. All students are expected to take careful note of feedback and to make good use of it in their studies.

7. All teachers and assessors are expected to give feedback in ways that can enhance the quality of students' learning, and to reflect on, review and update their expertise in feedback.

8. The provision of feedback must be regularly monitored in quality assurance procedures (e.g. in course questionnaires and/or focus groups, in staff-student liaison committees, and in programme/subject reviews) and appropriate action taken to address concerns raised.

Link: Feedback Standards and Guiding Principles; Feedback Information from Academic Services

Ian Stark