Why is their work better than mine? Using a showcase event to harness the power of conversation, comparative judgement, and self-generated feedback

As part of this unit’s summative assessment, we ask students, in groups, to research a topical tax issue and produce a research poster. During 2020/21 and 2021/22 this assessment was run online, with posters being produced on Padlet and groups doing a presentation on Zoom. Details of this can be found here – https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/humteachlearn/2021/03/18/summative-assessment-padlet-025/. Reflecting on this assessment design, I felt there were two areas that required improvement.

Firstly, I very much enjoyed and learned from the student’s posters and presentations. The assessment brief involves debate on an interesting and at times controversial tax topic, and often groups use different sources of information, prioritise different areas, and come to different (but valid) conclusions. Yet, it was only me that was benefiting from seeing this variety of student work. The first improvement needed is to allow groups to learn from each other, to discuss their findings, their points of view, and their experiences of the assessment itself.

Secondly, I made efforts to provide comprehensive written feedback on each group’s work, but as is often felt, it seemed there was little engagement with that feedback. From discussions with students after the assessment, it seemed very few had read the comments given or taken time to reflect on whether and how the feedback could help in future assignments. Therefore, the second improvement needed is to create the circumstances that encouraged meaningful engagement with feedback.

Instead of an online poster and presentation, students were required to design a printed poster for display at a showcase event. Posters were displayed around the room and students were encouraged to walk round, have discussions, ask questions, and make comparisons. Students were instructed to compare their work with other posters, noting down differences and judgements about comparative performance. It is here that students, inspired through these discussions with peers and comparative judgements, generated ‘internal feedback’ (Nicol and McCallum, 2022). This feedback was then captured and formalised by requiring each student to complete and submit a reflection document. In this document students were asked to compare their poster with three others, identifying differences, reflecting on what they learnt from these differences, and judging whose work was best and why.

Through peer-to-peer comparisons and conversations, students learned from each other, and created, and engaged with, high-quality self-generated feedback.


Students engaged very well with this assessment, with 96% attendance at the showcase event, followed by completed submissions of their feedback document. The event itself was wonderful, with students full of enthusiasm and conversation, with a resulting buzz surrounding the event. The overall quality of student reflections was very high, with students identifying areas of improvement spanning from topic specific issues, poster design ideas, and group work approaches. In the course unit survey, 71% of students ‘strongly agreed’ that ‘the feedback I received on my work was helpful’. This compared to 44% in the previous academic year.

Within the document submitted, students were asked how they felt about the assessment process. There were many positive comments received from the students, with many finding the assignment extremely helpful. Students enjoyed and valued the showcase event, they found the conversations and comparison process highlighted areas where they could improve. In the unit course survey, when asked what students valued about the unit, several students noted this assessment.

Evaluation / Student Feedback

I think it was very useful to see other peoples posters. It was useful to hear different opinions on the OST as they were different to mine. I also think its useful to reflect so next time I can implement what I have learnt from others in the conference in order to gain a higher mark in the future.

In my view, it is an excellent process for self-reflection and improving the quality of our future assignments. When we compare other people’s work or assignments to our own, we can learn from the bad posters and avoiding making the same mistakes in future assignments. Furthermore, we can gain valuable experience from good assignments and apply it to our future work. We can also use comparison from a third perspective, or if we notice any outstanding aspects of our work that we can keep in the future. In addition to this, by comparing assignments on the same topic, we can identify different perspectives on the topic for subsequent assignments as well. This is a great way to help us keep improving and be more efficient our future work.

It was inspiring to see the quality and standards to which projects were completed, this motivated me to performance better, knowing the bar is high. I feel like the reflection process helps me consolidate all the lessons I learned, both from working on the project and from comparing my group’s work to other groups. If I did not go through this process, I would not have remembered as much from what I learned and potentially applying it in future. In other words, the experience I gained would not be as beneficial for me if I did not have the opportunity to reflect upon it and give myself internal feedback.

I think I’ve learned just as much from this part (the conference and reflection) than creating the poster itself.

The group project was very well organised and being able to have a mini–conference meant that we were able to discuss with other groups about what they had done – therefore bringing us more together and being able to discover other people’s thought processes

  • Generation of high-quality summative feedback with little teacher input.
  • High levels of engagement with self-generated summative feedback
  • Motivational and inspiring for students
  • Encourages dialogical learning
  • Helps grow a learning community
  • Creates a sense of pride in student work
Top Tips
  • The showcase event is the key to stimulating the conversation and comparative judgements, so consider how your student’s work, whether formative or summative, could be shared amongst all students, preferably holding it on- campus during a timetabled slot.
  • Asking along colleagues to the event is hugely advantageous to students, requiring them to talk about their work with academics, who often have different insights and interests.
  • Give the showcase event some structure, asking half of each group to stand by their posters, whilst the other half explores the rest of the room, swapping roles halfway through the session.
  • Ask students to vote for the ‘best poster’, awarding certificates and prizes for more excitement! Students will automatically make comparative judgements when comparing their work with others, however it’s critical we capture that feedback by requiring students to write down their reflections. To ensure this vital stage was completed I linked completion of this document with a small percentage of their summative mark. Asking students to rank posters, followed by a required justification, puts the students in the marker’s shoes, and helps them reveal the weaker areas of their work.

Nicol, D. McCallum, S. (2022) Making internal feedback explicit: exploiting the multiple comparison that occur during peer review, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2021.1924620


School: Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS)

Discipline: Accounting and Finance

Academic: Alison Zimmer

Course: BMAN24111 Principles of Taxation

Cohort Size: 105

Themes: Assessment, Assessment Innovation, Learning Socially

Ref: 068