Constructors of Feedback

feedbackEngagementIt has been difficult to focus on studying when it has been so wonderfully warm here in Blighty. However, OpenMentor and our forum discussions have got me thinking.

While I see some benefits in the “let’s do feedback better” focus that tools like OpenMentor bring I do have a sense of unease that a lot of effort is going into perfecting the mechanics and standardisation of feedback without an equal emphasis on the more difficult question of “how do we help and encourage students to do something with it?”. Crisp’s (2007) small scale study makes for tutor-depressing reading.  There’s little evidence that  students make changes in their next submissions as a result of feedback.  When Nichol (2010) looks at student dissatisfaction with feedback he says:

“When students complain that feedback comments do not meet their needs, this is as much a symptom of a failure of dialogue as it is a symptom of weaknesses in the quality of the comments”  (italics mine!)

Of course those of you working with smaller groups or individuals may not have this “dialogue failure”.  Nicol discusses the need for students to become “active constructors of feedback information”.  The implication being that feedback needs to be not just received, but analysed, discussed, and connected with prior understanding.  What’s really challenging is how to do this? Take this module for example. We’ve all agreed that feedback on assignments is good – and I know that many of my peers are much more grown up self-directed learners than I am who do feed take feedback forward.  But I’ve been wondering how could deeper reflection on feedback be encouraged and embedded?

Here’s a few things that I for example would value:

  • Generic tutor feedback sessions (eg. what made a good TMA2, what common strengths and weaknesses were there).
  • Peer review – post submission swap assignments with one or two others for review and comments – then compare peers comments a few weeks later with tutor marked copies.
  • Have exemplars available before the assignment and critique the extent to which they met the assessment criteria.

Crisp, B. R. (2007). Is it worth the effort? How feedback influences students’ subsequent submission of assessable work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education32(5), 571-581.

Nicol, D. (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education35(5), 501-517.
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