Digi Domi

Sharing my passion for technology and learning.

Feedback is a process, not an activity

on March 14, 2014

As education professionals we are constantly faced with the questions of how to give effective, meaningful feedback to students. It is a particular hot topic at the moment, as it is one of the key areas for improvement highlighted by the NSS results in recent years. It has meant many of us have started to look at feedback differently. We recognise that feedback is a process and not a single activity that can be carried out. Feedback works best when it is cumulative, over a number of formative and summative assessment, as it can track and reflect on progress made from one piece of work to the next. This in turn aides the students ability to reflect and develop based on past mistakes and achievements.

But more than that in my opinion, feedback should have a mini-cycle for each individual piece of work, as it is best delivered over a staged process. Technology can assist in this process beautifully, by allowing feedback to be given remotely and consumed in the student’s own time. The student should then be given an opportunity to digest that feedback, reflect on what it means and any questions they may have about it. Next the student should have an opportunity, either via a face-to-face tutorial, or if this is not possible a video-chat (Skype or Google Hangout for example), to discuss the feedback and how improvements can be made in the future.

Feedback works best when it is not delivered as though it is a single task, but as part of an on going discussion that requires active engagement from both the student and tutor. Personally I also think it is important feedback not only highlight mistakes made, but also successes. We can learn by understanding what we did right, as we can by what we did wrong. I often felt as a student that although it was clear what I did wrong, it was not always clear if the aspects of my work not mentioned were successful, adequate or just not as bad and the rest. It might also be the case that success is not always achieved deliberately, and so reflecting on it can insure it is not a one of occurrence.

As education professionals we are learning a lot about what makes for good feedback, and that quantity is not always the best option. Technology enables us the play with different feedback options, from context specific text (such as Turnitin’s QuickMarks) or longer whole assignment reflections to voice and audio feedback. It is a developing and changing area of education, which may mean we never get it entirely right, but if we work with students perhaps we can get close.

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