What’s the point of feedback?

I recently had a conversation with some other academics about the whole marking, assessment and feedback parade that we go through in HE, and the NSS student survey results, which always score lower for feedback than for other areas.

We were pondering about why that might be – and came up with the following hypothesis:

These is a mismatch between the perceived goal of feedback – students think it does one thing, whereas staff think it does something entirely different.

When a student gets feedback, according to this hypothesis, they are hoping to be told how to get a better mark next time. However, when staff give feedback, they are looking to justify the mark they have given (negative sense of this: explaining why they have given such a low mark; positive sense: asking oneself “what could I reasonably expect a student at this point in the studies to be able to do?”).

I suppose one way of summing this up might be to suggest that staff are in the business of providing feedback, while students are looking for feed forward.  Steve Draper, of course, has written a paper suggesting that feedback is pointless unless it changes the learner.

Tee trick then, according to Steve, is to provide feedback that triggers the student to do something … and the challenge is how to do that when teaching modules with the bulk of the assessment falling towards the end of the module …


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One Response to What’s the point of feedback?

  1. At the most basic level. Feedback is confirmation to the receiver that they actually exist. It completes the transaction.

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