Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Feedback: quick ideas

Practical ideas for giving more effective feedback:

Make it short

  • What is the next step the student needs to take?

Make it useful

Tell them:

  • What is good (they might not be fully aware of what they did well or how they did it)
  • What parts could use further work
  • What they can do better next time (it may be obvious to you, opaque to the student, or worse, also obvious to them but they need affirmation…)
  • Remember that feedback can be very hard to take, so be thoughtful

Give some feedback early

This will help:

  • Establish trust
  • Establish ground rules and expectations
  • Establish workload and level
  • Place ownership of learning in student hands

Get other people to give feedback

  • Tutors, markers, other teachers on the course – but train them well, fairness and consistency is important
  • Students – This helps them develop their own understanding of what good work looks like

Cause students to reflect on their feedback

  • Reflection is an important aspect of learning and will help students be better next time.
  • Consider asking students to write down how they will use their feedback in the next assignment

Write it for students, not second markers

It may seem obvious but we all do it sometimes, e.g.: “Fails to contextualise the work of Fuller and Jameson with the teleological slant one would expect at this level…”

Do our students always know what the following mean?

  • Analyse
  • Contextualise
  • Summarise
  • Argument
  • Critically reflect …

If there is any doubt, exemplify.

Offer a ‘see me’ option

For when nothing you can write will make any difference:

  • Build in a small ‘hurdle’ such as making an appointment to ensure the student is committed to acting on the feedback.
  • Or, if you need to see the student, make this a requirement

Give group feedback on exams

  • Sometimes the same issues crop up across whole groups or appear year to year. When this happens it make sense to feed back to whole groups which frees up time and space for more bespoke individual feedback where needed.
  • Where the same issues tend to appear year to year feed-forward may be useful as a ‘heads up’ to students on what to avoid

Redesign your courses

  • To build in feedback opportunities and to simplify if the assessment regimes are overcomplicated.
  • Although this will take time and effort initially, you can make the design work for you and cut down time spent on feedback by focusing on providing it at the right time with clear, useful content for students. (Less can be better when focused).