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Types of feedback

There is considerable variety in the ways in which the outcomes and implications of student performance in assessments are communicated to students. After the publication of assessment results, students may receive a written report on their performance from the course tutor, either as a standard proforma or as free text. Students may be called for an oral feedback session with their Personal Tutor, or be invited to make an appointment to discuss their performance if they wish.

Departments should consider how the nature and extent of assessment feedback arranged for students complements the method of assessment used. It may be more useful to the student for feedback after the assessment of an extended essay or assignment to be presented in a written form. Conversely, oral feedback may be more appropriate following the assessment of a student’s overall development during an intercalated year. For practical assessments, it may be useful to provide visual feedback in the form of a video recording of the student carrying out the assessment, as long as the permission of the student is granted.

Departments may like to encourage their staff to provide students with feedback comments in a typed rather than hand-written format. This not only avoids any problems of illegibility and misunderstanding, but also allows the feedback comments to be electronically stored, and even reviewed against later assessments to judge long-term progress.

An exemplar proforma is provided, which could be adopted or adapted by departments to suit local circumstance to ensure that students receive clear feedback. This proforma does not intend to make the process of assessment feedback mechanistic; rather, it is designed to ‘close the loop’, relating feedback to the learning outcomes and key skills identified in published course specifications. The exemplar proforma provides a section for the student to complete upon submission of the assessed work, asking him/her to identify the learning outcomes and key skills covered by the assessed work, giving the student a sense of ownership of their learning path and an opportunity to reflect upon their assessment performance. The proforma contains sections for the two markers to complete, with space for comments on academic presentation and comments on the content and structure of the work. Should departments decide to use this proforma, it may need to be modified in the light of internal processes, including means used in the department for communicating feedback from second markers. Such a proforma could be made available on the departmental website for students to print off and complete and submit with their work. They could then receive a copy of the completed feedback proforma, with the original retained for external examining purposes.

School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

‘Students receive written feedback for each piece of written and practical coursework. The School asks all staff to provide appropriate written feedback to enable a student to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their work and the reasons why they have obtained a particular mark. . . Students can also request tutorials to discuss their work with the module tutor.’

Department of Statistics

‘The form of feedback is necessarily varied and task-specific, including one or more of: return of marked scripts, handing out model solutions/commentaries, discussion of the work with students individually.’

However delivered, feedback to students on assessments should provide enough detail to enable them to improve their performance. Although departments may not be able to make feedback sessions mandatory, they may wish to consider a system used in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, whereby students can opt to collect their mark earlier and receive feedback comments from the first marker of the assessed work, instead of waiting to collect the mark from the departmental secretary. This procedure appears to make voluntary attendance at feedback sessions more widespread.

Department of History of Art

‘Feedback is provided in written and oral form to students on the basis of work submitted . . . Students now fill in end-of-term report forms to be considered with personal tutors, which give opportunities for selfassessment.’

School of Life Sciences

Life Sciences varies the method of feedback according to the type of assessment. For example, students in the School receive verbal feedback on laboratory assessments and oral presentation assessments. For poster assessments, there is a peer feedback system in operation, in which students can allocate marks to their peers for effort and then discuss the assessment performance.

It may be a useful exercise for departments to ask the student to comment on their own view of their performance in assessments, promoting the concept of self-directed learning and encouraging self-reflection.

Departments should ideally use the learning outcomes published for the relevant module/course and transparent assessment criteria to form the basis for reflecting on student performance. Staff may wish to provide comments on a student’s performance as it relates to each learning outcome, thus equipping the student with a clear understanding of the specific areas which must be addressed; how performance could be improved and how that improvement could be effected. Using learning outcomes in this way completes the picture for students, ensuring transparency at the start of the module or course in respect to the expected outcomes of their study, and the means of achieving these through appropriate cross-referencing to assessment criteria.

School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

‘Feedback on assessed work is task-based and relates to the specific module content outlined in each module and the published criteria for assessment for written and practical coursework. Students receive written feedback for each piece of written and practical coursework. As from 2003/04, staff will be asked to provide specific learning outcomes on their module outlines and to ensure that their feedback comments on assessed work relate to the relevant module learning outcomes.’