Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Improving Student Learning with Computer-Based Feedback
Originator Dan Charman
Department Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA
Tel. +44 (0)1752-233058
Fax. +44 (0)1752-233054

This example is from a first year module entitled 'Techniques of geographical analysis: data analysis' which covers basic data description and analysis in geography. The teaching approach has been developed to provide improved formative assessment for a large number of students (265 in 1996/97) with limited staff input. The module is based around a handbook and recommended text coupled with a weekly introductory lecture and timetabled practical sessions and independent study based on PCs. Students carry out a practical assignment which is designed to be undertaken independently but which is assisted by postgraduate demonstrators. Previously, these assignments were handed in as a portfolio of ten weeks' work. This led to a very large amount of marking and staff could not provide adequate or regular feedback to students. The new continuous assessment is based on weekly computer based assessments using Question Mark. The software selects a set of questions from a structured question bank and randomises the order of questions, and answers within questions where appropriate. Questions are multiple choice, multiple response, `hot spot', text, numeric, text selection or explanation screens.

Students receive immediate feedback on each response and a mark at the end of the assessment, each of which counts for 4% of their overall mark. Access to the assessments and marks are controlled from a central key file. Marks and question analysis can be downloaded in Excel format. Although the new assessment needed considerable input to establish question and feedback banks, it has resulted in a large saving of time over the longer term. In addition, it is possible to monitor the performance of individual students and assess which areas of the module are being poorly understood by students. The new assessment will be evaluated at the end of 1996/97 in terms of student opinion and impact on student performance.


Computer assisted assessment
Data analysis
Formative assessment
Question Mark Designer
Student-centred learning

An expanded version of this case study abstract appears in the GDN Guide "Assessment in Geography"

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Page created 26 February 1997
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