PIP workshop: Feedback, Alan Marsh

Pedagogy in Practice (PIP) workshop, 14.2.17

This session was led by Alan Marsh, the Programme Lead and Senior Lecturer for Radiation Protection in the Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies.

This session looked at the NSS questions on feedback and it was clear students on the Radiation Protection programme felt the feedback they received was insufficient, and lacking detailed comments. The programme team couldn’t understand this as they devote a lot of time to providing feedback so it appeared students were not recognising it as feedback. These students tend to be mature students, returning to learning after some time so the idea of feedback and how to use it to feed-forward can require a change in approach.

The participants discussed this and their own experiences of students mis-understanding the purpose of feedback, along with what feedback is.

PIP feedback session

What is feedback?

The Oxford English Dictionary  defines feedback as (one of three, others to do with process and electrical signals):

Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

It was agreed the main point for feedback is to provide a basis for improvement. Other suggestions for what feedback is included: to indicate to students if they are on target to pass; formative;  timely; formal and informal.

Participants shared the various ways they provide feedback, including written and recorded. Alan discussed his experiences of using these different approaches and the importance of preparing students to be able to use the feedback provided.

Strategies for how to ensure students understand feedback should be used to feed-forward were explored, with a suggestion of including an area for improvement each time to focus the student to this area of development.

Alan also discussed some recent literature on this topic, which is summarised along with notes from the session.

Kolb, 1982; Brockbank, 1998; Ramsden, 2003; Irons, 2007; Norton, 2007 (to name but a few) recognize that feedback on assignments can contribute to improving the quality of the student learning experience. Ramsden, 2003, in particular for example (page 187) highlights that “It is impossible to overstate the role of effective comments on students’ progress in any discussion of effective teaching and assessment”.

Carless, 2015 talks about the three interrelated processes of :-

  • Learning oriented assessment tasks for students;
  •  Students development of self-evaluative capacities;
  • Student engagement with feedback.

Hattie, 2009 claims that learning becomes visible when teachers are also learners  and helping students to become their own teachers. Providing adequate feedback is an important aspect.

Boud & Molloy (2013b) developed and analysed two models of feedback:-

  •  The first positions teachers as the drivers of feedback (derived from the original concept of feedback from the applied sciences – unilateral approach);
  •  The second draws on the idea of sustainable assessment, in which learners have a key role in driving learning and so generating their own feedback – bilateral or multilateral approach which positions students as active learners.

Parker & Winstone (2016) presented students with 10 possible feedback interventions, which seemed to indicate that students believe (or they perceive) they lack the skills required to engage with interventions; they make some recommendations as to how to frame such interventions to promote stronger student engagement.

If you have some examples of how you are helping students understand feedback and how you are linking feedback to feed-forward, do get in touch to share your practice, AQD@cumbria.ac.uk.

References / further reading

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013a) Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well. London: Routledge

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013b) ‘Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design’  J. of Assessment & Evaluation in HE, 38(6), pp. 689-71

Carless, D (2015) ‘Exploring learning-oriented assessment process’, Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education Research,  69(6), pp. 963-976

Parker, M. & Winstone, N.E. (2016) ‘Students perceptions of interventions for supporting their engagement with feedback’, Practictioner Research in Higher Education, 10(1) pp. 53-64

Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd edn. London: Routledge Falmer

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