Effective feedback and implications for practice

Margaret Price, Berry O'Donovan, Karen Handley and Jill Millar (ASKe)

This paper closely examines the assessment feedback process, exploring problems that prevent students using feedback effectively and discussing implications for practice. Published research on feedback and empirical data from an FDTL project (Engaging Students with Assessment Feedback) are discussed and examined within the contextual constraints of current HE practice.

Within the context of UK Higher Education considerable dissatisfaction with feedback processes is aptly demonstrated by the NSS results, where almost universally, assessment and feedback are given low ratings. Within the FDTL project a literature review has been undertaken and seven detailed cases studies of feedback methods prepared ( presented at BSLES 2007). In addition data from 35 semi structured interviews conducted with staff and student in three institutions have been analysed using the Nvivo software package.

There is clear evidence that current practices can frustrate students to the point that they no longer engage with the formal feedback process. Instead, the data suggests that students often rely on informal communication processes within their social and academic environment. However the findings also reveal factors that can support student engagement and support their understanding of feedback. Implications for practice are evaluated including: broadening staff and students understanding and recognition of feedback in all its forms; a reduced emphasis on written feedback along with the encouragement of dialogic and interactive feedback processes; a recognition of the importance of feedforward in coherent course structures; and finally, in a resource constrained environment the value of peer feedback processes.