Feedback and learning

Feedback is an essential part of effective learning. Feedback can improve a student's confidence, self-awareness and enthusiasm for learning. Whether it be informal and formative, such as encouragement during a class or improving the mastery of a skill; or formal and summative feedback, such as determining a competency or successful demonstration of an approach to theory application.  Feedback lets students know how they are doing and should provide opportunities to adjust and perfect their efforts.

To benefit student learning, feedback needs to be:

  • Constructive – As well as highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a piece of work, it should set out ways in which the student can improve.
  • Timely – Give feedback while the work is still fresh in a  student’s mind, and before they move onto subsequent tasks
  • Meaningful – It needs to target individual needs and be linked to specific intended learning outcomes

Feedback and assessment

Assessment feedback is critical for effectively promoting student learning. Feedback is the lynchpin to students’ effective decision making, and the basis of improved learning outcomes. However, according to Henderson et al (2017) feedback is under-utilised and often misunderstood by both students and educators. As such, a group of academics undertook a project aiming to enhance student learning and experience by improving institutional, educator, and student capacity to stimulate and leverage assessment feedback.

The project group consisted of a collaboration between Monash University, Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, led by Associate Professor Michael Henderson and Professor David Boud, and was sponsored by the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching funding grant. Access their work on the Feedback for Learning: Closing the assessment loop website.

The framework includes three categories for enacting the conditions of success.  Feedback is successful when…

Capacity for feedback

(1) Learners and educators understand and value feedback

(2) Learners are active in the feedback process

(3) Educators seek and use evidence to plan and judge effectiveness

(4) Learners and educators have access to appropriate space and technology

Designs for feedback

(5) Information provided is usable and learners know how to use it

(6) It is tailored to meet the different needs of learners

(7) A variety of sources and modes are used as appropriate

(8) Learning outcomes of multiple tasks are aligned

Culture for feedback

(9) It is a valued and visible enterprise at all levels

(10) there are processes in place to ensure consistency and quality

(11) Leaders and educators ensure continuity of vision and commitment

(12) Educators have flexibility to deploy resources to best effect

Feedback for teaching

Feedback in education often focuses solely on student learning. However feedback for teaching is just as valuable.

Consider the following:

  • Peer Observation – Involves teachers observing each other’s practice and learning from one another.  Peer observation aims to support the sharing of practice and builds self-awareness about the impact of one’s teaching practice in order to affect change.  This can be both an informal or formal process.
  • Peer Review – Is a structured process that support the provision of feedback and evidence on teaching practice. Usually a more formal process.

For more information on using feedback to improve and enhance teaching practices, visit Teaching Practice > Evaluation.


Resources, strategies or assistance

Text/Articles

  • Henderson, M., Dawson, P., Ryan, T., Boud, D., Phillips, M., & Mahoney, P. (2017, July). What are effective feedback practices? Views from staff, students and the literature. Paper presented at the Assessment in Higher Education Conference, Manchester, U.K.
  • Jackel, B., Pearce, J., Radloff, A. & Edwards, D. (2017) Assessment and feedback in higher education: A review of literature for the Higher Education Academy. Australian Council for Educational Research.
  • Sambell, K. (2011) Rethinking feedback in higher education: An assessment for learning perspective. The Higher Education Academy

Websites

Assistance

  • Contact your Associate Dean of Teaching Quality to see how your School or Discipline approaches feedback for learning in your programs.