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Delivery of Feedback

There are clear resource implications behind the implementation of student assessment feedback, and these will obviously be different for each department depending on cohort size, number of teaching staff, assessment method and form of feedback.

The importance of effective feedback in student learning cannot be over-emphasised. Research indicates that its absence is an important contributory cause of low retention, a finding that should be noted by all UK HEIs.[1]

Departments should consider which members of staff are best placed to conduct feedback activity. This may be the course leader, module tutor or personal tutor.

It is vital that staff providing feedback to students have a clear understanding of the department’s particular policy and methodology for providing assessment feedback, and that they are aware of the assessment material, the learning outcomes and the students’ work. New staff should be informed whether proforma feedback sheets are used by their department and whether written and/or verbal feedback is standard. Appropriate pairings of new and established staff should ideally be selected, specialisms allowing, to enable new staff to work in tandem with more experienced staff acting as second markers or moderators. The Postgraduate Certificate in Academic and Professional Practice (PCAPP) run by the Learning and Development Centre includes a module entitled ‘Assessing and Evaluating’, which includes advice on means of providing feedback to students on assessed work.

The Learning and Development Centre website also provides a web link to the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN), comprising a generic centre which deals with the broad range of higher education issues and a series of subject centres devoted to particular disciplines, subjects or fields. The LTSN is able to provide guidance on issues relating to assessment feedback.

Some means of delivering assessment feedback that staff may wish to consider are set out in Gibbs, G, and Habeshaw, T, Preparing to Teach: An introduction to effective teaching in higher education:

  • Writing a brief summary of your view of the assignment
  • Balancing negative with positive comments
  • Using constructive criticism to provide positive suggestions for improvement
  • Asking questions which encourage reflection about the work
  • Explaining all your comments
  • Suggesting follow-up work and references
  • Suggesting specific ways to improve the assignment
  • Explaining the mark or the grade and explaining why it is not better or worse
  • Offering help with specific problems
  • Offering the opportunity to discuss the assignment and your comments.[2]

1. Denton, Philip, Enhancing Student Learning Using Electronic Feedback 9 in ‘Exchange’ issue 4 Spring 2003, TQEF NCT, LTSN, ILTHE, JISC: p.24

2. Gibbs, G, and Habeshaw, T, Preparing to Teach: An introduction to effective teaching in higher education, Technical and Educational Services Ltd 1989: p.116