Bridge the gap: exploring experiences of assessment, feedback and student performance. What is next?
‘Bridge the Gap’ is an institutional project aiming to better understand and address degree-awarding gap between students from white and minority ethnic backgrounds. Academic achievement is a multi-dimensional concept, rooted in many variables. The literature cites compelling evidence that the barriers faced by many underrepresented or disadvantaged students, reflect structural inequalities (NUS, 2019; Gorard et al., 2007; Leathwood and O’Connell, 2003), and must be approached in a holistic way, by identifying what institutional and wider sector practices need to change to provide all students with equal opportunities to achieve.
Given the centrality of assessment and feedback in shaping the student outcomes, an early aim of the project was to explore students’ experiences of assessment. A survey was disseminated to all students in December 2021. It addressed students’ understanding of assessment criteria and standards, levels of anxiety associated with specific assessment methods, usefulness of feedback and access to support mechanisms. The findings indicate that there are key disparities in the experiences of students from different demographic groups. Differences related to perceived value of guidance and feedback, confidence in raising concerns and engagement with support services. Analysis of open text data provided by survey respondents was undertaken by a team of student-researchers. This complemented the quantitative findings and highlighted a number of additional areas where institutional attention should be focused. This included the need for assessors to better understand students’ circumstances and concerns over the extent to which the assessment process might be biased against certain groups of students.
Survey findings formed the basis of a series of the interviews and focus groups that allowed the project team to gain further insights into the assessment experiences of minority ethic students. This data has been triangulated with outcomes of statistical analysis of institutional attainment data to show how findings are reflected in the longitudinal institutional data of student performance across all levels of study and demographic groups. The presentation, by members of the project team, including student-researchers, will explore the research findings in more detail. It will discuss how the findings can influence institutional approaches to assessment and feedback – both at the policy level and in everyday day teaching and assessment practices, as well as student support.
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