UK based education technology company Digital Assess has partnered with universities in three continents* to trailblaze a formative assessment method that has been proven to improve student satisfaction and boost attainment by as much as 14%.

Digital Assess’ online assessment portal CompareAssess harnesses the assessment method known as Adaptive Comparative Judgement (ACJ), and enables students to receive fast, meaningful feedback through a hassle-free peer review system.

Adaptive Comparative Judgement, which was developed by Digital Assess alongside leading academics Professor Richard Kimbell (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Alastair Pollitt (Cambridge), is based on the Law of Comparative Judgement, which proves that people are better at making comparative, paired judgements rather than absolute ones.

Professor Richard Kimbell explained, “It is easy to compare the temperature of two rooms and declare which is warmer, but it is much more difficult to say with absolute certainty what the precise temperature is in each.”

He went on to say, “Through an anonymous peer review system, CompareAssess engages students in collaborative critique and therefore develops critical thinking. This method helps students to recognise what areas they can improve, and how. Understanding the assessment process and how others perceive their work subsequently influences students’ approach to future assignments, and university academics in the UK have reported an improvement of up to 14% in attainment, especially with difficult to influence middle ability students.”

CompareAssess, which is accessible to schools, colleges and universities worldwide, enables students to compare one piece of work to another side-by-side. They then choose which is better at meeting the desired learning outcomes. Rather than receiving isolated feedback according to a complex mark scheme, institutions can opt to make the assessment process more transparent. It allows students to understand what a good, stand-out piece of work actually looks like, and provides less room for ambiguities.

The efficiency and speed with which students receive their feedback is also increased. Students can access feedback almost instantly, eliminating any lengthy waiting periods, which the National Student Survey shows is one of the main causes of university student dissatisfaction. Quality of feedback is also improved, through incorporating a range of different perspectives and not subjecting work to the personal bias of one marker.

Through recently embedding the ACJ tool into an easily accessible online portal, Digital Assess has ensured that anyone, anywhere, can use it and benefit from the innovative assessment approach it offers.

Matt Wingfield, Chief Business Development Officer at Digital Assess, commented:

“Universities around the world are already using CompareAssess to transform their assessment process, and improve the way their students receive and engage with feedback. It enables students to truly understand assessment mentality and how this is applied to their own work. The ability of CompareAssess to improve student satisfaction means that not only is it pedagogically sound, but it is also makes good business sense in terms of retaining and attracting new students. In developing this new, user-friendly portal, we have now made it much easier for anyone to utilise the ACJ tool. We hope that many more institutions world-wide will follow the lead of the pioneers and use the tool as their formative assessment method of choice.”

Despite being designed with assessment in mind, CompareAssess is not limited solely to peer-review contexts, and can be applied to a range of other disciplines and scenarios that involve making a comparative decision. For example, the ACJ tool was used to develop a free online resource, Classical 100, which was used in primary schools to encourage young learners to engage with classical music. Developed by ABRSM, in partnership with Classic FM and Decca Classics, the use of the ACJ tool allowed the music to be judged and ranked according to its suitability for classroom scenarios using iteration and an adaptive algorithm.

*The international trailblazer group pioneering CompareAssess the Adaptive Comparative Judgement Tool includes the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, Purdue University (USA), Edith Cowan University (Australia) and the University of South Australia.

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