What feedback models or processes do you prefer?
It's been my experience over the years, as both teacher and student, that feedback is a double edged sword. I tend not to take any notice of summative feedback - all I am interested in is whether I have passed or not. As a teacher, in the past the only time I heard from students about the feedback I gave them was when they wanted me to increase their grades. Very rarely have I heard from students who have wanted to discuss my feedback so they can learn how to improve their 'performance'.
The process for giving feedback I use is an open feedback model, especially when I teach in online courses. I give frequent formal feedback often as I can as a way of scaffolding students to their summative assessments. As much as possible I prefer to give feedback in a way that everyone can learn from it, not just the individual student.
Why is feedback important?
However, as I have become to understand more about how students learn, the more I have come to realise that the feedback I give students is as important as the assessment itself. Receiving feedback is a vital part of the learning process so it is vital that I spend time to give constructive feedback that students can use to achieve learning outcomes in the future. Quality feedback is also an acknowledgment of the work that students have put into their assessments.
Here are a few points about feedback (University of Technology Sydney, 2007).
- Feedback can be used to ensure that students improve the quality of their work and do not make the same mistakes in their next assessment.
- Feedback should not be given right at the end of their course - this will be of no use for the students' learning.
- There needs to be a clear framework that guides lecturers, and which students can compare feedback against.
- Comments should be specific rather than vague, broad sweeping statements.
- Feedback should be constructive, focusing on how students can improve as opposed to emphasizing what students did wrong.
The lecturer has to be mindful of the effect that power has on the process of feedback, both in terms of giving and receiving it (Higgins, 2000). Students will have different preferences and needs, and lecturers need to make feedback a learning process, not one of confrontation or defensiveness.
To my mind, one of the challenges is how to get students to look at their feedback and take heed of it. Today, it seems that we concentrate so much on grades that we neglect the learning process that takes us to the point we get our grades, yet this is as important as the final marks (Nichol, 2006).
How do you balance how much feedback to give?
From a pragmatic point of view, the amount of feedback you are able to give depends on time constraints. I find I give far more feedback to students who have areas to improve than about work that is very good. I also find that feedback is a lot easier to give when you have a clear marking rubric - it allows you to be accurate and objective, and not to distracted into subjective opinions.
If you are a student, do you read your feedback? What do you think makes good feedback? If you are a teacher, how do you like to give students feedback?
Higgins, R. (2000). Be more critical: rethinking assessment feedback. Retrieved 18 September, 2009, from http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00001548.doc
Nicol, D. J., McFarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education. 31, (2), 199-219. Retrieved 11th September, 2009, from http://www.reap.ac.uk/public/Papers/DN_SHE_Final.pdf
University of Technology Sydney. (2007). Formative feedback. Retrieved 18 September, 2009, from http://www.iml.uts.edu.au/assessment/feedback/