The role of formative feedback in improving group work outcomes

Mark Freeman, Diane Hutchinson, Lesley Treleaven


This paper describes a deliberate strategy to focus on improving group work through attention to formative feedback to teams during the process of undertaking major group work assessment. The strategy employs a range of activities built around SPARK (Self and Peer Assessment Resource Kit (, an automated program for online, confidential self and peer assessment. This study involves a threefold collaboration between the lecturer, an experienced SPARK developer and an academic learning and teaching adviser. The impetus comes from students in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney reporting strong views in regard to their group work experiences. In the 2005 student survey across all courses, 10% of students’ qualitative comments on the best aspect of their course experience related to group work. Yet, another 10% of the qualitative comments identified group work as the aspect most in need of improvement. In response, the Faculty recently developed significant resources ( to help students and staff engage in improved group work practices. In the short paper that follows, the summative and formative assessment literature in relation to group work is first discussed. The formative use of SPARK in the study site is then outlined. Finally, student responses to a questionnaire are analysed and the implications for formative use of this online self and peer assessment tool drawn out.

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