Most feedback is given to students in a form that can’t be used and at a time not suitable for them to act on it. Nor are they given any reason to engage meaningfully with it. Knowledge of performance is also insufficient for most students, as they don’t know what good work looks like.
Consideration needs to be given to:
The selection of tasks on which detailed comments are provided. Do they represent key material and ideas that students need to master? Do they require the use of key skills? Are they interesting and engaging enough to stimulate students’ enthusiasm? Will students see them as sufficiently important to spend time on them?
The timing of the task. Does it take place when students can give the task due attention? Is it located at a time when students can engage meaningfully with it?
The nature and timing of responses to students. Are comments received by students in a timely fashion at a point in the course when they can reasonably act upon them? Are they in a form that they can accept and use? Do comments point to actions that can be taken?
Availability of models and guides. Do students have ready access to models of good work? Is there information available to assist them beyond the specific comments provided (eg. commentaries on key concepts, access to writing support, etc.)?
Opportunities for students to show what have learned from engaging with information provided. Where can students demonstrate their improved performance (if this is not possible then staff won’t know if their comments are of any use!)?
What are auspicious circumstances for the use of information in a feedback process?
• Builds on success, what students can do well
• Improvement of performance has some consequence
• There is a reason for students to act on it soon
• Timed appropriately
• In a form that can be used
• Students want to do something about it and have avenues to do so
• Students are enthused about improving work
• Students have access to realistic models of good work they can identify with
• Staff can observe specific student improvement in subsequent work
What are inauspicious circumstances?
• Grades or judgemental comments only are given
• Occurs at end of sequence of learning, task is seen as a terminating activity
• Timed at period of overload of other work
• No access to models or guides to improvement
• No reason to act on it soon
• Staff never know whether their comments have had any effect