Assessment feedback to students
This guidance paper offers:
1. The principles of providing feedback to students
2. A listing of practical feedback methods for both coursework and exams 3. Suggestions for cutting back on marking and feedback work load 4. The main points of Bath’s Quality Assurance expectations regarding assessment feedback to students
5. References for further information
1. The principles of providing assessment feedback to students The role of feedback in the learning process, is to inform the student of where and how their learning and performance can be improved. Feedback on learning can come from fellow students, lecturers, staff supporting the learning process such as demonstrators, or the student themselves.
Although feedback to students is often thought of as being given in response to assessment, there are may forms of feedback on learning, which do not relate to assessment at all, ranging from feedback on work in progress (eg during lab work) to more generic feedback on effective a student is performing their studies overall (end of year study advice). This paper, however, concentrates on providing feedback on assessment, both coursework and exams.
Feedback on assessment can be given to sum up the final judgement of the quality of the students work (summative feedback), or to help the student improve their work in future (formative feedback). A further, but in HE less common form of feedback helps the student identify their aptitude and ability for a particular kind of learning (diagnostic feedback). A highly individualised form of feedback sometimes used in (performing) arts, sports, design and professional disciplines takes into account the students’ previous developments, and uses this as the starting point for assessing progress or improvement of skills, knowledge and competence (ipsative feedback).
Considering best practice of providing feedback to students, the following values apply:
Feedback is best provided as soon as possible after the assessment took place, so that the learning from feedback can still be connected to the assessment content.
Feedback should be critical, but supportive to learning, so as to encourage a student’s confident scrutiny of their future work.
Feedback should –where possible- be directly related to learning outcomes and given assessment criteria, so that students are very clear on what was and will be expected of them.
Feedback on work should go beyond editing (grammar, spelling, mathematical notation, presentation) and link to the broader learning outcomes, unless of course, these are included in the learning outcomes. Common editing type feedback can be given through usage of a feedback tick list (see below) Feedback should be given with care and attention to standards of respect for diversity and individuality, and should rarely be directed at the student, but rather at their work.
Feedback is most likely to have an effect if students are fully aware that what they encounter is meant as feedback, and that they should take not of it in order to improve their learning.
2. A listing of practical feedback methods
The most common forms we tend to use in Higher Education for giving feedback is written feedback on students’ individual work, or verbal feedback either to individuals or groups of students. But work load pressure, innovative means of assessment, direct student demands and a range of other pressures, can lead to a need to use less traditional modes of feedback.
Providing generic feedback in lectures or workshops: feedback is given on what the majority of students seem to be struggling with, without reference to individual assessments.
Self assessment: allow students to provide an initial self assessment at the end of their assessed work, according to a set grid or checklist of assessment criteria. This helps students in the fastest possible manner, to have an indication of the quality of their achievement.
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