Developing formative assessment using ICTs in education

Steve Higgins, Chris Falzon, Viv Baumfield, David Mercer, Lisa Murtagh, Lesley Neave and Sue Robson

The Project

The aim of this project is to develop practical formative assessment strategies using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on undergraduate and higher degree Education courses, in order to improve students’ learning. The project is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as part of Phase 5 of Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning programme (FDTL5).

The main outcome of the project will be an effective practice Guide, which will include case studies of good practice. The Guide will be developed iteratively, over three years, using practitioner investigations in three universities and one college of further education. The initial draft will be based on evidence from a range of research and development projects involving formative assessment and involving the use of ICT to support effective teaching and learning.

The methodology is centred on exemplification and dissemination of effective practice from a core group of staff at Newcastle University to a development group and finally a wider extension group in neighbouring HE and FE institutions. This is to enable the project to achieve uptake of the ideas and changes in pedagogical practice.


The key goal of this project is to develop practical strategies for formative assessment using ICTs such as e-mail, web pages or virtual learning environments (VLEs) such as Blackboard, during Education courses to improve students’ learning. The specific objectives are to:

1. enhance existing formative assessment techniques by using appropriate ICTs;
2. develop new techniques for formative assessment using ICTs;
3. develop an effective practice Guide for staff and students to develop and disseminate these;
4. extend understanding of formative assessment and how this relates to wider curriculum design across different groups of students.


Formative feedback is central to learning and is the principal tool by which lecturers improve the knowledge, skills and understanding of their students at a deeper level. However, most techniques of formative assessment are for conventional, face-to-face teaching. Increasingly students in education departments are part-time and/or have work based projects often at a considerable distance – even overseas – from the institution itself. The increasing sophistication of ICTs, including web-based/virtual learning platforms, offers a solution to developing new or more effective techniques for the provision of formative feedback to students at a distance and/or in the work place.

The Project Team

The project is directed by Steve Higgins and managed by Chris Falzon. The other members of the team at Newcastle University are Lisa Murtagh, Viv Baumfield and David Mercer. Other institutions involved in the North East include Sunderland and Durham Universities and Gateshead College.

Further details

For a copy of the full report or further information on any aspect of this research then quote reference LT021 and contact:

Centre Research Secretary
Tel: 0191 222 6943
Fax: 0191 222 8170

Our postal address is:

Centre for Learning and Teaching
School of Education, Communication & Language Sciences
University of Newcastle
St Thomas Street
Newcastle upon Tyne