4.1 Formative assessment
All responses by PBL groups must, at the very least, receive formative feedback. If the response has been in written form (a group report, for example) this allows the tutor to make written comments on the report before it is returned to students. In addition, when returning written responses the tutor should also discuss with individual groups the strengths and weaknesses of their response. Thus students benefit from both written and verbal feedback from the tutor. In the case of an OHP presentation, the tutor should take notes during the presentation so as to ensure a worthwhile feedback discussion with the group.
When providing formative feedback, students must be made aware of the factors affecting the quality of their response (both positive and negative) in terms of the learning outcomes associated with the task. This involves both subject-specific and general outcomes. Poor responses can arise due to inadequate team preparation, regardless of the input of individual team members. In the case of weak responses, students require guidance on how to improve their performance in future responses.
Remember that students will be apprehensive with the PBL process when they first experience it, regardless of whether they are first- or final-year students. Assurances from the facilitator are crucial at this stage. Expect teething problems while students adjust to what is expected of them. Use the first task to build rather than destroy student confidence. Bear this in mind when assessing a group’s response to the first task. Consider using formative assessment only for the first task.