Getting feedback on our feedback

To support our Faculty’s mission to prepare “graduates for careers of the future”, a critical project for Learning Innovations in 2019 has been to explore how to provide effective feedback for our students.

Multiple CRADLE researchers have argued that feedback is more than just something we provide to students. Instead, we need to be thinking about how we can engage in feedback ‘conversations’ that help students understand their progress, improve their learning, and prepare them for future problems. Some further issues identified by the Feedback Working Party include:

  • Markers are not always adequately equipped to teach or provide feedback
  • Students may have insufficient information about assessment expectations
  • Students have an emotional response to feedback, and this understanding should inform feedback practices
  • Perceived lack of feedback literacy amongst staff and students
  • Inconsistency in feedback provided within units (including inconsistency in the reason for providing feedback)

Effective feedback practises will also help students make judgements about the quality of their work. CRADLE call this evaluative judgement, and it is a crucial skill for students during their studies, and in their future careers. While work on ensuring we are providing our students with useful feedback, and chances for students to apply this feedback, continues; the Feedback Working Party has produced a Feedback Tool, helping academics ensure their marking and feedback is:

  • Moderated – requiring knowledge of the criteria and standards
  • Objectively evaluated
  • Personalised and empathetic
  • Performance-oriented
  • Developmental

Dr Naomi Winstone, University of Surrey, UK gave the keynote address at Deakin’s 2019 Learning and Teaching Conference, on the importance of feedback to students, and need to move to a new paradigm of feedback, reminding us how emotional our responses to feedback can be, even for seasoned academics used to getting comments on their papers:

We all want to meet our own expectations of ourselves, and so being critiqued – or even just the prospect of being critiqued – can present an enormous threat to our self-esteem and positive sense of identity

Winstone’s presentationhelped me reflect on my feedback practice. How can I be a little more diplomatic, and little kinder in my feedback; while still highlighting the gaps for students, and how they can improve for next time?

For those looking for a little ‘light’ holiday reading, CRADLE has recently published The Impact of Feedback in Higher Education: Improving Assessment Outcomes for Learners, for which Dr Naomi Winstone was a contributing author.

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