Enhancing feedback: other ideas to try

Feedback does not only have to mean written feedback from you to one student. It could also mean feedback from peers, generic feedback, informal feedback or self-feedback (more commonly known as self-evaluation). It can be provided through annotation of a document, focussed discussion, video or audio shorts, or even in conversation. It is possible to move beyond simple feedback processes and really enhance the students’ learning, and, potentially, your own teaching experience, without the effort of good feedback provision rising substantially.

Feedback for learning: formative feedback

The purpose of feedback is not simply to tell students how they might have improved on their work in the final assessments for a course, but to provide them with the knowledge and opportunity to improve during the course. This means providing opportunities for formative feedback; that is feedback on formative assessment, which can only be provided if opportunities for formative assessment are made possible. Assuming that this is the case, the essential elements of providing good feedback should be followed and we would encourage you to incorporate one, or some, of the principles of good feedback into your formative feedback design.

Providing regular opportunities for small amounts of feedback throughout a course can support the development of a dialogue around feedback and whilst this might seem a lot, it doesn’t have to onerous. You can think about how to provide quick and effective feedback to your students, or you could involve them in peer review (see below), or you could even involve them as partners in the design so that they are involved in the entire process and together you discuss and formulate formative feedback opportunities.


Students as partners

Involving students in the assessment and feedback process might, at first, seem rather daunting. However, the benefits to the students’ learning from working in partnership cannot be underestimated. Students can be involved in designing all, or a small part of the assessment, designing the criteria against which the assessed work is judged, or designing and providing feedback to their peers. These kinds of activities support students to understand what assessment is, what it is trying to assess and to then create something that really tests their understanding and knowledge. It can also support them to consider how best to provide constructive feedback to enable learning gains and so encourage them to reflect upon their own learning.

Relevant links:

The PEER Project on the REAP website discusses how students were involved in assessment and feedback at the university of Strathclyde.

Further reading:

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C. and Felten, P. (2014) Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. ISBN: 9781118434581
Deeley, S. and Bovill, C. (2016) Staff student partnership in assessment: enhancing assessment literacy through democratic practices. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.
Healey, Flint and Harrington (2014) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education.


Peer feedback/review

Peer feedback is the process in which students review and make comments on work by their peers. In doing so, they have to make sense of the criteria against which the work is marked, and they have to assess the quality of the work in light of these criteria. These activities support students to then reflect on their own work, critically evaluate their own learning and even identify where any gaps might be, whilst also ensuring that they are really clear as to what the criteria mean for their won work. Peer feedback is most often used formatively, or with a small summative grade.

Technologies to support peer feedback:

Aropä supports the entire process of peer feedback and review, no matter the artefact you ask your students to produce (it could be anything from code to a photograph), whilst PeerWise allows students to comment on MCQs written by their peers.

Relevant links:

The PEER Toolkit on the REAP website comes out of Strathclyde University and provides support for those wishing to implement peer review.


Self-evaluation

Self-evaluation is the process in which students review and make comments on their own work in relation to the criteria against which the work will be marked. In doing so, they have to make sense of these criteria, and assess the quality of their own work with respect to those criteria. This supported reflection on their own work can prompt critical evaluation of their own learning Self-evaluation is most often used formatively, or with a small summative grade attached to it.