Marking and giving feedback

General principles

Providing effective, easily understood and timely feedback is a national and institutional priority - to improve student satisfaction and to maximise student achievement.

For it to be of positive value, feedback needs to be:  

Constructive

Feedback should focus on the positive as well as 'areas for improvement' in order to be encouraging and motivational rather than destructive. For peer feedback, establishing ground rules is essential if students are to feel safe in this activity.

Timely

For it to be useful, feedback needs to occur at the right point in the learning. Feedback that is formative, for example, needs to be given well in advance of the following assessment in order to give students time to reflect and - if necessary - act on it.

Prompt

If feedback is given too late, students may have 'lost the thread' of what was required in the assessment and moved on, particularly in a modularised context.

Supportive of learning

Feedback should clarify to a student 'where she or he is in their learning' in relation to intended learning outcomes, and what remains to be achieved.

Focussed

Despite the above, achievement should be the focus of feedback, not effort. It should be the work that is being assessed, not the student!

Consequential

Students should be required to demonstrate that they have attended to feedback. Personal development planning (PDP) is a useful process in this regard, whereby students are taken through a structured, supported cycle of self-appraisal and action planning, with specific reference to feedback.

Fostering of independence

Opportunities should be given for students to assess their own work - again PDP is a useful mechanism here, but whereas the focus in PDP is often in terms of a critical overview of their achievement, at module level students can benefit from more specific direction and focus on their performance.

Efficient

Feedback needs to be delivered in a way that is manageable to staff involved. Arranging individual tutorials for every student is simply unrealistic in many contexts - but following the return of work, using part of a lecture or seminar to review a recent assessment, summarising some of the strengths shown by the work as well as common mistakes or misunderstandings can be very productive and helpful.