The gifts of feedback, but how do we get our students to open them?

The following post was written by Sheila Mclaughlin, a lecturer in Tourism at the University of Derby, Buxton.

Our new Turnitin digital submission system and assessment facility provides a wonderful step forward in being able to provide slick and timely feedback but how do we get more of our students to engage with it?

The dashboard on Turnitin shows us by a silhouetted image the students who have visited their marked assessment for more than 30 seconds.  This means there is a slim chance that a few may have clicked in and down loaded without being detected.

A recent cohort of 99 level 4 students from a range of programmes were emailed to announce the availability of their provisional grades and feedback, this resulted in a 75% response rate but what of the other 25% who did not view their feedback (incidentally with provisional grades ranging from NS/F to A+).  A subsequent specific reminder to the non engagers provided no improvement to the response rate.

Will the students look later in the summer or never bother?  Does that matter?

Many authors have written on the subject including Dennis (1999).who noted immediacy of feedback as the extent to which a medium enables users to give rapid feedback on the communications they receive which fantastically our new system supports.  According to Wiggins (1993) useful and timely feedback is an absolute requirement of any authentic test.  Whilst Chickering,  Gamson and Poulsen (1987) include prompt feedback in their Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education:

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty;
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students;
  3. Encourages active learning;
  4. Gives prompt feedback;
  5. Emphasizes time on task;
  6. Communicates high expectations;
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Those authors believe that assessment without timely feedback contributes little to learning.  Hattie and Timperley (2007) identify key issues relative to  the type of feedback, the way it is given and the timing of feedback in their work entitled The Power of Feedback.

So how can we give the opportunity for our feedback to be powerful?

A few of the Buxton academics have gained some success in engaging the students with their feedback through announcing availability of provisional grades within the 3 week turnaround, then hiding (burying) the grades in amongst the digital feedback comments within the scripts.  It would appear that the opportunity to gain provisional grades is one incentive to engage with feedback.

Small scale initial student feedback is positive on ‘hiding grades’ as an incentive.  Clearly more student and staff experiences and views need to be gained.  Could we start the ball rolling on this via this blog.  It would be perhaps help us all if you would note your percentage student response experiences, incentives/anything you have found to be effective and views on the way forward.

Some of thinking goes onto question whether engagement and real benefit from feedback could be derived from integrating feedback into PDP activities. Whilst some may do this already, views by blog response to the suggestion of the following series of activities for PDP could be very insightful.

  1. Start of each semester, PDP activity for all students to undertake charted analysis of their assessment feedback, particularly relative to improvement suggestions (York University for example require academics to provide 3 clear improvement points);
  2. From the analysis for each student as part of PDP to then develop say 3 SMART objectives for improvement;
  3. For the student again to develop mini strategies (action plan) as to how they will achieve those objectives;
  4. At the end of the semester for each student to undertake a mini reflection on achievement or otherwise of their objectives.

Could such PDP activity be readily set up through IT as an online process, perhaps with online video guidance?


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