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Studies in Higher Education Vol. 31, No. 2, April 2006, pp. 199–218ISSN 0307-5079 (print)/ISSN 1470-174X (online)/06/020199–20 © 2006 Society for Research into Higher Education DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090Formative assessment and self- regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice David J. Nicola* and Debra Macfarlane-Dickb aUniversity of Strathclyde, UK; bUniversity of Glasgow, UK Taylor and Francis LtdCSHE_A_157192.sgm10.1080/03075070600572090Studies in Higher Education0307-5079 (print)/1470-174X (online)Original Article2006Society for Research into Higher Education312000000April 2006DavidJ.NicolCentre for Academic Practice, Graham Hills BuildingUniversity of Strathclyde50 George research on formative assessment and feedback is reinterpreted to show how these processes can help students take control of their own learning, i.e. become self-regulated learners. This refor- mulation is used to identify seven principles of good feedback practice that support self-regulation. A key argument is that students are already assessing their own work and generating their own feedback, and that higher education should build on this ability. The research underpinning each feedback principle is presented, and some examples of easy-to-implement feedback strategies are briefly described. This shift in focus, whereby students are seen as having a proactive rather than a reactive role in generating and using feedback, has profound implications for the way in which teachers organise assessments and support learning.IntroductionThis article positions the research on formative assessment and feedback within a model of self-regulated learning. Formative assessment refers to assessment that is specifically intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning (Sadler, 1998). A central argument is that, in higher education, formative assessment and feedback should be used to empower students as self-regulated learners. The construct of self-regulation refers to the degree to which students can regulate aspects of their thinking, motivation and behaviour during learning (Pintrich & Zusho, 2002). In practice, self-regulation is manifested in the active monitoring and regulation of a number of different learning processes, e.g. the setting of, and orientation towards, learning goals; the strategies used to achieve goals; the manage- ment of resources; the effort exerted; reactions to external feedback; the products produced.*Corresponding author: Centre for Academic Practice, Graham Hills Building, University of Strathclyde, 50 George Street, Glasgow G1 1QE, UK. Email: D. J. Nicol and D. Macfarlane-DickIntelligent self-regulation requires that the student has in mind some goals to be achieved against which performance can be compared and assessed. In academic settings, specific targets, criteria, standards and other external reference points (e.g. exemplars) help define goals. Feedback is information about how the student’s present state (of learning and performance) relates to these goals and standards. Students generate internal feedback as they monitor their engagement with learning activities and tasks, and assess progress towards goals. Those more effective at self- regulation, however, produce better feedback or are more able to use the feedback they generate to achieve their desired goals (Butler & Winne, 1995). Self-regulated learners also actively interpret external feedback, for example, from teachers and other students, in relation to their internal goals. Although research shows that students can learn to be more self-regulated (see Pintrich, 1995; Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001), how to enhance feedback (both self-generated and external) in support of self-regulation has not been fully explored in the current literature. This article helps to address this gap by proposing seven principles of good feedback practice in relation to the development of self-regulation.The rationale for rethinking formative assessment and feedbackOver the last two decades, there has been a shift in the way teachers and researchers write about student learning in higher education. Instead of characterising it as a simple acquisition process based on teacher transmission, learning is now more commonly conceptualised as a process whereby students actively construct their own knowledge and skills (Barr & Tagg, 1995; DeCorte, 1996; Nicol, 1997). Students interact with subject content, transforming and discussing it with others, in order to internalise meaning and make connections with what is already known. Terms like ‘student- centred learning’, which have entered the lexicon of higher education, are one reflec- tion of this new way of thinking. Even though there is disagreement over the precise definition of student-centred learning, the core assumptions are active engagement in learning and learner responsibility for the management of learning (Lea et al., 2003).Despite this shift in conceptions of teaching and learning, a parallel shift in relation to formative assessment and feedback has been slower to emerge. In higher education, formative assessment and feedback are still largely controlled by and seen as the respon- sibility of teachers; and feedback is still generally conceptualised as a transmission process, even though some influential researchers have recently challenged this view- point (Sadler, 1998; Boud, 2000; Yorke, 2003). Teachers ‘transmit’ feedback messages to students about what is right and wrong in their academic work, about its strengths and weaknesses, and students use this information to make subsequent improvements.There are a number of problems with this transmission view when applied to formative assessment and feedback. Firstly, if formative assessment is exclusively in the hands of teachers, then it is difficult to see how students can become empowered and develop the self-regulation skills needed to prepare them for learning outside university and throughout life (Boud, 2000). Secondly, there is an assumption that when teachers transmit feedback information to students these messages are easily


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