Sunday, November 16, 2014

Feedback strategies: quick, but good

The provision of good feedback is important. It’s one area of teaching where students are never satisfied (and they tell us so in their responses to student satisfaction surveys). While this seems counter-intuitive to those teachers who know that students often don’t collect assignments at the end of semester, it is so.

The thing is that students seem to be distinguishing between feedback that explains their mark, and feedback designed to assist them to complete future tasks more successfully. They aren’t so interested in the former, but they are very interested in the latter. So … that’s the trick … make sure you tell them that all the feedback you provide will assist them to do better in the future – either in the current course / subject, or in a later course or subject.

You might also try some of the following techniques to speed up the process and increase student engagement with the feedback you do provide for them.

Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT)

Give students time in class to reflect on their work, and to make improvements to it. You can do this in a variety of ways, one of which is to set up a peer review process that includes a session in class where they sit with their peers and go through draft assignments. You might have set up a previous activity where they have had time to share their drafts and work through the work of their colleagues, making comments and suggestions. The class time then gives them room to discuss those suggestions with each other.

Symbols, not comments

This technique works very well with errors and mistakes that are made by the majority of the class. Rather than write the same comment over and over again on assignment after assignment, create a key to common problems. Use the symbols when you are marking assignments, and provide students with a written explanation of the meaning of each symbol (returned with their assignments), and a follow-up session in class, where you go over each error or mistake and give them an opportunity to clarify their understanding. For example, the symbol # might be used to indicate “lack of evidence”. In your feedback session, you could then provide an overview of how to use evidence to support an argument. Remember, learning is a conversation. Students need to check with you that they have understood your feedback.

The Dot Round

As students are working in groups, do some quick quality feedback in class. That is, check their work. Where they have made mistakes or could improve things, mark their work with a dot. Don’t tell them what is wrong, just that something is not quite up to scratch. Their job then is to reflect on that particular section and work out how to improve it. You could also use this technique with draft submissions.

Assess in colour

In preparation for a DIRT session (see above) you or peer markers can draw green boxes around the best parts of someone’s draft assignment and red boxes around the bits that are not up to scratch. The reasons for these assessments can then be discussed in the DIRT session.

Self-assessment before teacher assessment

Provide students with a detailed marking rubric. Go through the rubric in class, ensuring – as far as possible – that students understand the criteria. Make it a requirement of submission that students provide a self-assessment of their assignment against the marking rubric. When you mark the work, use the same marking rubric, and concentrate on pointing out the differences between your assessment of their work, and their own assessment of their work.

One-to-one time in class

Where and when you can, provide students with opportunities to ask you questions about the written feedback you have provided. Learning is a conversation.


For more information on these and other techniques, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment