Once again it’s marking time.  Since the last marking round I have been considering the feedback process. Dai Hounsell and colleagues at Edinburgh suggest that there are trouble spots in the guidance and feedback loop, these are occurrences which hinder some of the benefits of feedback being experienced. 

So looking particularly at feedback on assignments what can be done … I tried to give myself five rules for feedback, to erase some of the blocks which prevent feedback being used to its full potential.  

1. Identify areas of difficulty experienced BUT move on to suggest a step towards remedy (not necessarily in detail, but for example suggest background reading, using the community). 

2. Think ahead. If  there is a weakness, misunderstanding or even a strength shown in an area which will have relevance to the next module, flag it up as an area to develop or as an area to be a source of confidence when moving on.

3. Expand upon all academic or unusual terms, don’t assume that your own (my) use of words like criticality and analytical are aligned with the learners understanding, many such terms are ambiguous. The use of such terms needs to be accompanied with clarification. For example, in one context,  more criticality was needed …. this means that you need to consider the issue in more detail and see the issue from different points of view. 

4. Balance encouragement with identification of areas for improvement. This is important for those who excel,  such that identification of areas for improvement are not always visible straight away, as well as for those who have many potential areas for improvement. 

5. Use the terms of the assessment criteria and learning outcomes. As a link between the university and the learner the language needs to be aligned to represent the formality of the process. If the assessment criteria for example values “informed discussion” this should be the term of choice, though expansion (as in 3.) may be useful. 

I will need feedback on whether I hit these targets and whether they are the right rules of play for feedback. 

In the light of useful feedback there is a stop press 6th item to add here : 

6. Identify categorically areas within a submission which show strong and weak characteristics – exemplify the feedback.