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Formative feedback

Students at UTS say the quality of the feedback is the same as the quality of teaching by the lecturer. They find that only the lecturers who really care about their learning provide feedback. Poor quality feedback reflects poorly on the University. Students expect more feedback now they increasingly having to fund their own education. These are questions of accountability and transparency. The main reason academic give for not providing feedback is because it is too much work. Not providing students with feedback on their work gives the impression of overcrowded classes, a lack of personal help and encourages cheating.


"Lecturers who really care about their students' learning provide feedback."


It is a common misconception that students are only doing courses to pass assignments. The majority of students say they are enrolled in their subjects to learn. They stress that a high workload is only worthwhile if it results in higher quality learning. Many students interviewed at UTS say that the effort that they put into their projects however, is not reciprocated in the quality of the feedback they received from the lecturers. Students expect to be able to experiment but also to have their ideas challenged and tested.

Feedback helps students to improve and prevent them from making the same mistakes again. It is useless if feedback comes back too late in the semester. Students sometimes wait on the feedback before they feel capable of going onto the next bit. Grades do not equal feedback. Examinations are usually a summative form of assessment and therefore not used for feedback. Students who attempt to learn from their examinations are often frustrated that they cannot get copies of their exam papers.

For students, high quality feedback consists of following three things:

  1. Clear criteria against which to judge the comments.
  2. Comments that are detailed and related to specific aspects of their work.
  3. Comments that are improvement focussed.