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• Try drafting a collection of feedback comments on a particular assignment. This can be prepared on the basis of the work of the class as a whole, based on common
errors and frequent dif culties, and can be posted as an announcement or discussion post on Vision for all the class to view, then only needing you to email individual students with any speci c additional feedback they need.
• Design and use assignment return sheets. These
are typically proformas that you complete including the speci c assignment criteria, Likert scales for marks against each criterion and boxes for general and criterion-speci c comments (which you can cut and paste from a statement bank). Additionally, if you have already mapped out the feedback agenda for an assignment, (for example based on the intended learning outcomes or the assessment criteria for the assignment), this can help to map feedback comments to students more systematically. Rubrics are available in Turnltln and submissions can be marked against each criterion. It is also a useful tool to use when marking in teams.
• Create an overall feedback report for an assignment.
This is really useful for giving generic and often repeated feedback on a task set to a large group of students, and can cover all the most important mistakes and misunderstandings. For example, assessors regularly want to comment on poor referencing, and it can really help to be able either to paste in detailed guidance, or point them towards a virtual resource that does so. It is also possible to refer individual students to the sections relevant to their own work, and still allow you to add minimal individual feedback to students, addressing aspects
of their work not embraced by the general report. Upload this report to Vision and copy the URL so that you can readily paste this into a comment in individual student’s work as needed.
• Devise ‘exploded’ model answers. These explain not just where an error is made, but why this constitutes a problem and can show students a lot of detail which can be self-explanatory to them, allowing them to compare the model answers with their own work and see what they’ve missed out or got
wrong. Model answers can also be useful in showing students struggling to see what is required to see what good work looks like. Ideally prepare more than one sample answer for the same question, showing how excellence can be achieved in very different ways. Share these model answers on Vision, but make it clear that any re-use of the content within the models will be considered plagiarism.
• Gain skills in using ‘track changes’ facilities. Track changes in Microsoft Word and other text editors highlight comments and changes made in a different colour, so the suggestions are visible to students. We can enter comments on their work, and suggestions for similar tasks next time. This can be a very quick way of giving a lot of detailed feedback and feed-forward, in exactly the right place - interspersed with their words - rather than in a margin or over the page.
FEEDBACK TO STUDENTS TENDS TO BE MOST
EFFECTIVE WHEN IT IS:
1. Strong on feed-forward. How valuable feedback turns out to be is largely determined by how well it is put to use by students, and this means how much it lends itself to helping them build on existing strengths, and tackle identi ed weaknesses. ‘This is great - keep doing this!’ can be a very useful comment, helping students to see that it was not a matter of having jumped through a particular hoop successfully, but that it’s useful to build this into their ongoing study strategy.
2. Providing dialogue possibilities. Often, the real meaning of feedback only really gets across to students when they are able, live or virtually, to question the feedback, giving us the opportunity to explain why it’s important, how exactly to go about putting it into practice and so on. Printed or online words can be the basis of useful dialogue between students and tutors, but it’s more effective if we make sure that the feedback text is only a start and not a  nish to the process.
3. Timely - the sooner the better. There has been plenty
of research into how long after the learning event it takes
for the effects of feedback to be signi cantly eroded. Many institutions nowadays specify in their public documents
that work will be returned with feedback within two to three weeks, enabling students to derive greater bene ts from it, while they still remember and care about the assignment. When feedback is received very quickly, it is much more effective, as students can still remember exactly what they were thinking as they addressed each task. Ideally feedback should be received within a day or two, and even better almost straightaway, as is possible (for example) in some computer-aided learning situations, and equally in some face-to face contexts. When marked work is returned to students weeks (or even months) after submission, feedback is often totally ignored because it bears little relevance to students’ current needs then.
4. Personal and individual. Whole-class feedback has its merits, but ideally feedback needs to  t each student’s achievement, individual nature, and personality. Excessively generic techniques for compiling and distributing feedback can reduce the extent of ownership which students take over the feedback they receive, even when the quality and amount of feedback is increased. When giving feedback digitally, some degree of personalisation is even more important. Tools like Turnltln provide a means to record audio which can be used to individualise your feedback, even if it is only a short overview accompanied by more detail in text form.
5. Understandable. Students should not have to struggle to make sense of our feedback. Whether our messages are congratulatory or critical, it should be easy for students to work out exactly what we are trying to tell them, they should not have to read each sentence more than once, trying
to work out what we are really saying. That, of course, is addressed to a great extent when face-to-face feedback is used, allowing all the normal human communication dimensions to come into play, rather than just text.
6. Empowering. While feedback is intended to strengthen and consolidate learning, we need to make sure it doesn’t dampen down the desire to continue learning and harm students’ senses of self ef cacy. This is easier to ensure when feedback is positive of course, but we need to look carefully at how
best we can make critical feedback equally empowering to students. We must not forget that often feedback is given and received in a system where power is loaded towards the provider of the feedback rather than the recipient. It can be
FURTHER READING
Duncan, N. (2007) ‘Feed-forward’: improving students’ use of tutors’ comments. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(3), pp.271-283.
Chapter 5 of Sambell, K., Brown, S. and Graham, L. (2017) Professionalism in Practice: kev directions in higher education learning, teaching and assessment, London, New York, Palgrave Macmillan
Yang, M. and Carless, D. (2013) The feedback triangle and the enhancement of dialogic feedback processes, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), pp.285-297.
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