Feedback during semester

(Not relevant here)        Effective feedback for learning   Methods for giving feedback
    Results of effective feedback     Innovative approaches to feedback
        Online feedback
        Feedback & assessment anxiety

Effective feedback for learning during the semester

Good quality individualised feedback during semester enables students to not only learn more effectively but also to develop the skills necessary to evaluate their own progress in a unit of study. Therefore it is vital to provide quality feedback, individualized wherever possible, and encourage others in your teaching team to do the same.

Give prompt feedback whenever possible. Students are more likely to pay attention to feedback they receive close to an assessment task, and to then take it into account as they move on with their learning.

Let the students know the standards you expect of them by providing clear and concise criteria for assessment, along with grade descriptors indicating the standards expected for each grade (P-HD) in your unit of study (UoS) outline. This enables you to give feedback on how well their work measures up to the criteria, and what needs to be improved.

Ensure that your students have a good understanding of how these criteria relate to their assessment tasks. During classes, as you are working together on learning activities that relate to the assessment tasks, refer explicitly to the assessment criteria and talk about how to demonstrate achievement. For example, you could briefly showcase a number of students’ responses to the learning activity, each of which demonstrates excellence in relation to at least one criterion. This will reduce any confusion students may have on how assessment criteria apply to the tasks at hand.

Give constructive feedback on assessment tasks throughout the semester. This should be more than just reference to criteria, grade descriptors or grades – include meaningful comments on how well responses meet the assessment criteria, and if improvement is necessary suggest solutions or resources that will help.

Encourage the students to use feedback for improvement rather than feeling dispirited if they haven’t done well in a particular task. Feedback and grades can be a very emotional issue for some students and they may require some help in understanding that they can use it to improve their learning, and their results. It may be useful if you ask students what they perceive to be useful feedback, and also let them know what other sources of feedback are available to them.

Don’t reinforce students’ fixation with the grade alone by only returning only a score. If multiple choice questionnaires (MCQs) are used because of the size of your class, at least include some general feedback to all students, explaining why the most commonly chosen incorrect answers were wrong, and what made the correct answers better choices.

The results of effective feedback

When students have a clear understanding of what constitutes good performance in the subject area, they are able to:

  • use individualised feedback to work on weaknesses and implement improvements
  • measure their own progress against the learning objectives, and develop their self-evaluation skills
  • prepare for final assessments with confidence in their own ability to perform well.

Methods for giving feedback

  • Advice on how to write effective feedback can be found in the article Writing Good Feedback from Teaching@Sydney.
  • Practical ways to give feedback to your students: see the Institute of Teaching and Learning (ITL) Teaching Insight: Giving feedback on assessments from the Teaching Insights page.
  • Give to feedback to students on their academic writing using the The WriteSite facility which enables you and easily refer students individually to the parts of the site that will help them to improve.
  • Provide students with an interactive tool to monitor their own progress. The Business school uses the online feedback system ReView which allows staff to define their assessment criteria according to the graduate attributes.
  • For further discussion on ways to give effective feedback see Feedback for learning from the Business School’s Learning & Teaching resources.

Examples of innovative approaches to feedback

  • Prompt, personalised feedback for MCQ tests for large classes: Adam Bridgeman and Peter Rutledge from Chemistry have developed a software program which is designed to provide personalised feedback. It combines a statistical analysis of the individual’s performance relative to that of the class with feedback on incorrect answers and suggestions for additional resources on the corresponding topics. Personalised reports are automatically generated and emailed to each student. It is also able to produce reports for lecturing and sessional staff compiled from student results. More details on the process, and the philosophy behind it, can be found in the Synergy article Getting Personal: Feedback for the Masses.
  • Automated generation of feedback reports using statistical software: Alex Eapen in the Business School has designed a program to operate for feedback on both MCQs and free response components. This allows him to reduce time spent on the administration aspects of delivering feedback, freeing more time to focus on the core tasks of assessment – the evaluation of the material. More information can be found in the Synergy article Delivering High Quality Individualised Feedback Reports to large Classes of Students.
  • The Readiness Assurance Process makes quick in-class assessments to provide immediate feedback. Developed by Larry Michaelsen this process uses a team-based learning approach, which not only gives immediate feedback to students, it can also follow up on gaps in their learning. For more information see the Team-based learning website.

Using online feedback

The assessment tools in your eLearning site include the option for you to provide automated feedback on quizzes and to generate statistical information on student responses. Once set up, these tools are efficient for delivering feedback, particularly for large classes.

You can also use your analysis of the statistical information to better understand which areas students are having the most difficulty with, and focus on these during face-to-face classes.

Using one-on-one feedback to help students cope with assessment anxiety

Students can experience a lot of stress around performing well in their assessments, particularly when they are part of large class groups, and this can produce feelings of disconnection or alienation from lecturers, and from the subject in general.

Conversely academic staff may not feel equipped to deal with the emotional states of students, especially around assessment times when the number of stressed students can become overwhelming.

Student Support Services offer workshops and one-on-one counselling to assist students in these situations. However it is important that academic staff also offer appropriate support and advice at the time it is required by students.

See Academic difficulties for more information on supporting students who are distressed about their assessment performance.