Gauging student learning in an online environment

In this final FDOL blog post I will be reflecting upon my involvement in a group PBL task that required us to design a learning activity in which our class would participate. My group decided to design an online quiz using Kahoot around the subject of semiotics, an important topic within the proposed online module our first PBL presentation was based on. My reflections led me to consider two aspects of my current teaching practice; how I gauge my students’ understanding in an online environment and encouraging discussion within an active learning scenario that will lead to a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

With only a short video explaining the basics of semiotics preceding the task, there was some concern raised within our group as to whether participants would have developed enough of an understanding to undertake the quiz, so we were pleased the percentage of correct answers indicated there was a good level of understanding and it was enlightening for me to experience first hand the insight into student learning that student response systems (SRS) technology can provide. With having the intention of delivering more online content in my teaching it’s important that I have strategies for assessing my students’ understanding of topics in this environment; I often rely upon verbal questioning in my small group face-to-face teaching so the use of SRS quizzes provides a good alternative for online teaching (UKPSF A5, K4 & K5). Kearns’ (2012, para.28 ) study into student assessment in online learning highlighted quizzes as an effective method to “informally assess students’ understanding as well as supply feedback to help them correct misconceptions”; this adds a research-informed rationale for my plans to introduced this pedagogical approach (UKPSF A5 & V3 ).

My PBL group opted to use Kahoot as its features were able to adequately facilitate the task we had planned and it was familiar following a demonstration earlier in the semester. We were also introduced to ‘Socrative’ through its use during an FDOL lecture which I personally found to be a more versatile SRS as it also allows for students to post responses to questions that can subsequently be viewed by the rest of the class. This feature in particular has great potential to encourage discussion and active participation in online learning as Awedh, Mueen, Zafar and Manzoor’s (2014, p.23) investigation ascertained: “We conclude that Socrative improves students level of interactivity, which helps students to be active in class and have collaborative learning, which also increases student engagement in the learning process.”

I intend to start using Socrative to run quizzes that will allow me to judge students’ understanding of theoretical topics and also post questions that will encourage students to debate the ‘affective outcomes’ of their work that “seek to address the subjective dimensions of the musical experience…among the categories of affective outcomes are student relations (to the music, to each other or the world, to himself or herself) which build community and the composer’s craft” (Sindberg, 2012, Chapter 2, para. 18-19). Using Socrative’s question and response features in his way will help to build the relationships that Sindberg describes through evaluating musical performance and composition, this approach can be used in an online environment and also in the classroom using commonly available mobile technology (UKPSF A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, K1, K2, K4 & K5).


Awedh, M. Mueen, A. Zafar, B. Manzoor, U. (2014). Using Socrative and Smartphones for the support of collaborative learning. International Journal on Integrating Technology in Education, 3(4), 17-24. Retrieved from  

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education.

Kearns, L. R. (2012). Student Assessment in Online Learning: Challenges and Effective Practices. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 8(3). Retrieved from

Sindberg, L. k. (2012). Just Good Teaching: Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) in Theory and Practice. Plymouth: Rowman & LittleField (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from












How do I support my students and what are the opportunities for further improvement through digital technologies

When I think about how I support my students, the issue of mechanisms and methods for providing feedback are relevant; my recent experience of being a student again has reminded me of the anxiety that students face whilst preparing their assignments. Creating the opportunity for regular formative feedback is a fundamental aspect of any pedagogic design and will “explicitly help students complete summative assessment tasks” (Bloxham, 2015, p.112) without compromising learning, as there is often a reluctance amongst students to expose and therefore address holes in their knowledge when high stakes summative assessment is involved (Bloxham, 2009). Carefully constructed formative feedback can also help with motivation when you consider “The effort that students make towards achieving goals is affected by how they feel about those goals and how they perceive the likelihood of achieving those goals” (Irons, 2008, p.36). The positive comments I have received from students through MEQs indicate my students feel supported and motivated by the feedback approach I use in my face-face teaching but I have yet to explore the possibility of adapting/enhancing my methods in an online environment; this provides the focus for this post and resulting actions (UKPSF A3, A4, A5 & K5).

Because of the practical nature of my teaching almost every session involves me providing formative feedback; currently my only use of the VLE for feedback is to produce written summative reports at the end of semesters so I feel there is scope for me to further engage students through feedback using technology and the VLE medium. Mcarthy’s (2015, para.30) study into providing a variety of feedback methods to a group of 77 visual ‘Design Language in Media Arts ‘ students concluded that,  “For the students participating in this study, video feedback was viewed as the most beneficial because it provided more in-depth analysis of their academic performance in assignments, which were largely visual-based. The feedback model matched the format of the assessment.” A key point to note here is that the visual element of the video feedback was highlighted as a very efficient way to address the visual nature of the assignment. Given that most instrumental technique issues related to music performance require a visual demonstration for corrective measures to be fully understood, there is a strong argument for me to start to provide formative and summative video feedback through the VLE (UKPSF A3, A5, K1 ,K2, K3, K4 & V3).

I intend to integrate video feedback into my practice in conjunction with screen capture software, this will allow me to simultaneously demonstrate and refer to a musical score or assessment criteria whilst incorporating the principles of effective feedback for music teaching outlined in Harris’s (2009) ‘taxonomy of response’ (UKPSF A3, K1, K2, K4 & V3). The ‘diagnostic’ and ‘making a suggestion’ aspects of Harris taxonomy are much easier to communicate by providing very specific demonstrations using an instrument and the audio-visual capabilities of video. I also aim to channel the completely affirmative, qualified enthusiasm, question/discussion and observational responses to performances he outlines in positive way through the feedback. With students able to see my gestures and hear the tone of my voice, they will be able to clearly gauge my reaction to their performances; by maintaining an awareness of this connection I can use it offer encouragement and highlight positive aspects of their work (UKPSF A3, A4, K1, K2, K3 & K4). Seeing a teacher diligently reviewing work in this way can lead to a feeling of proximity with students;  Mathisen’s (2012, para.44) investigation into the use of screen capture found that “There is reason to claim that through the use of screen capture as a medium of feedback, a closeness desired by students is created with their teachers. This experience, combined with a feeling of capturing their teacher’s attention and becoming involved in their work, leads to motivation and effort.” With this clearly identified link between technology enhanced feedback and increased student motivation, I anticipate the introduction of my video feedback approach will increase the amount of support I offer my students in relation to assessment and motivate them to engage with a regular practice regime (UKPSF A2, A3, A4, A5, V3, K4 & K5).


Bloxham, S. (2015). Assessing assessment: new developments in assessment design, feedback practices and marking in higher education In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge & S. Marshall (Eds), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Oxon: Routledge

Harris, P. (2012). The Virtuoso Teacher: the inspirational guide for instrumental and singing teachers. London: Faber (Kindle reader version 4.15.1) Retrieved from

Higher Education Academy. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supported learning in higher education. Retrieved from

Irons, A., & Exely (Ed). (2008). Enhancing Learning through Formative Assessment and Feedback. Oxon:Routledge

Mathisen, P. (2012). Video Feedback in Higher Education – A Contribution to Improving the Quality of Written Feedback. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 7, 97-116. Retrieved from

McCarthy, J. (2015). Evaluating written, audio and video feedback in higher education summative assessment tasks. Issues in Educational Research, 25(2), 153-169. Retrieved from