Posted by John Kleeman

As readers of this blog will know, I’ve been learning how psychological research can help guide assessment. I presented on this earlier in the year at a JISC CETIS workshop on assessment, and was a little daunted to see in the front row two Professors of Education including Professor David Nicol, a world authority on assessment in universities! Fortunately he was polite and willing to listen as I explained my perspective. And I thought you might be interested in hearing about his work.

Professor David Nicol
Professor David Nicol

The emphasis of Nicol’s work is that students must learn to make evaluative judgements about their own work if they are to be productive beyond university. He suggests that it is key to develop learners who can monitor, evaluate and regulate their own thinking and actions and in employment settings give feedback on the thinking and actions of others.
You can read more about Professor Nicol’s work on the REAP website. In a paper with a colleague, he suggests 7 principles of feedback to support self-regulation. His research advises that good feedback:

  1. helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards)
  2. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning
  3. delivers high-quality information to students about their learning
  4. encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning
  5. encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
  6. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance
  7. provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching

For instance, the first principle is based on research that learners can only achieve goals if they understand those goals, assume ownership of them and can assess progress against them.
70 20 10 modelGetting learners to learn to learn in this way seems to fit well with the 70+20+10 model of learning, where increasingly in corporations people are thinking that about 70% of learning comes from “Doing” … real-life and on-the-job experiences, 20% of learning comes from “Others” …feedback, observing and working with others and 10% of learning comes from “Study” …formal learning and training. In such environments, it is key for people to be able to direct their own learning. With fast-changing technology and globalization, learning to learn matters a lot – so Nicol’s research in how to empower people to regulate their own learning seems valuable for all.