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Y.F. Chan, G.K. Sidhu

Universiti Teknologi MARA (MALAYSIA)
In the past two decades a conceptual shift has occurred in the practice of assessment, from a teacher-directed perspective to one that involves students in the assessment process, or in other words the shift from a testing culture to an assessment culture. OECD (2005) states that, to be truly effective, assessment should also be “formative” – in other words, identifying and responding to the students’ learning needs. In classrooms featuring formative assessment, teachers make frequent, interactive assessments of student understanding through different types of assessment of assignment. This enables them to adjust their teaching to meet individual student needs, and to better help all students to reach high standards. Teachers also actively involve students in the process, helping them to develop skills that enable them to learn better. However, the effectiveness of any assessment depends on the quantity and quality of feedback, and how it is incorporated by students in subsequent performance, or more specifically: why, what, when, how and who should (be) assess(ed). Narciss (2008) defines feedback as ‘‘all post-response information that is provided to a learner to inform the learner on his or her actual state of learning or performance’’. Teachers and researchers have found that the most effective feedback is timely, specific and tied to explicit criteria. As feedback was meant to facilitate elaboration and to fill knowledge gaps, elaborated feedback was provided, which consisted of knowledge of results, knowledge of correct response, and explanations why the student’s answer was correct or not. Students who exhibit behaviors that allow them to master academic work are seen to have deep cognitive engagement, while students who exhibit behaviors such as rote memorization and rituals they perceive will help them do well without developing mastery of the material are demonstrating shallow engagement. Hence, formative assessment focuses on cognitive, social, affective, and meta-cognitive aspects of learning, often applies a multi-method approach and it leads to a profile instead of a single score.

This study examined the relationship between assignment and feedback practices on cognitive development among students in higher education. The data for the study was collected from 470 postgraduate respondents through a survey questionnaire. Generally, the findings depicted that students were satisfied with the assignments given to them in their course. Even though the quantity and timing of feedback have been only rated at the moderate level, however, most of the students were satisfied with the quality of feedback provided by their lecturers. Most of the students have also indicated positive response towards the utilisation of feedback in their learning. Even though, not many lecturers have provided adequate and good feedback, however, students felt that their cognitive development has been enhanced. The findings also identified a positive, moderate, and significant relationship between assignment practices, feedback practices and cognitive development among the students in higher education. The finding of the study supports the argument that formative assessment which provides frequent and timing feedback has a positive impact on students’ cognitive development. This study has implications for the improvement of assignment practices and feedback practices among postgraduate programmes in higher education.