How can I use two-stage assignments?

How does it align with the module Learning Outcomes? Does it assess skills and knowledge that are key to the discipline?

An assignment that has been designed to meet module/programme Learning Outcomes can be staggered into stages. Providing opportunities for low-stakes practice and increasing feedback can help students to develop confidence with skills and knowledge with the Learning Outcomes.

Will it be formative or summative? If summative, how will I give opportunities for practice? When will it occur in the term/module? What will the weighting be?

Gibbs (2007) and Bryan and Clegg (2006) advocate using the first stage of the assignments for formative purposes without grades and only with feedback. However, if you feel students are unlikely to engage and take the opportunity for feedback, you could make a draft or formative submission a compulsory part of the course (it must be completed but is not graded), or give it a small weighting.

When considering using two-stage assignments, you can use the mapping tools in this resource to think about timings within the module.

How will I mark it? What criteria will I use? How will I give feedback?

If you decide to grade the formative submission, consider whether you will use the same criteria as for the summative stage. Often this can cause problems as a formative submission occurs at a point in the course when not all content or skills have been taught. It is usually better to develop a simpler version of the criteria (or to give indicative grades) based on what has been done and what could be improved. Be aware that research has shown that when grading formative assessment, students often pay less attention to the feedback itself (Wiliam and Black, 2002), which can detract from the purpose of the two-stage assignment.

You could decide to give generic feedback or use peer evaluation and self-evaluation activities at formative stages.


How can I address potential challenges? 

Do I need to make any modifications for accessibility/inclusivity? Can I build these into the design?

The usual reasonable adjustments for submission extensions should be taken into account. This might delay formative feedback.

In some cases, consider whether students could be given a choice of format for how they present their formative stage of the assessment. Issues with reliability, assessment equivalences and external examiners are lessened with formative assessment, so this could foster autonomous and self-directed learning for all students if some freedom and choice is offered.


Do I need to make any modifications for large cohort sizes? Will it be time consuming to set up or mark? Is there anything I can do to modify it to address this?

If feedback has been distributed meaningfully during the course, it can reduce teacher time spent on marking the final assignment, where students pay less attention and see less value of feedback (Jessop et al, 2014).

You could also decide to use generic feedback or use peer evaluation activities at the formative stages (although some teacher feedback should be given)


How can I introduce it to the students?

Explain your rationale to students. Explicit discussion with students about the value of formative assessment and opportunities to receive feedback is likely to help increase engagement. First years and those from educational cultures where formative assessment is not common may need some time to become familiar with the culture of formative assessment. It is worth considering using peer, group or public feedback to encourage engagement.