Do students use feedback?

Today at a lunch party to welcome two new colleagues (Welcome, Terese and Tania!) and to congratulate a colleague on her marriage (Congrats, Sandra!), a few of us found ourselves making small talk about giving feedback to students. (It was pretty deep stuff for small talk, but that’s the way things go around here!) Anyone who has ever given feedback to students on assignments will know the amount of effort required to do so, and the concomitant sense of vague curiosity you feel, as you wonder to what extent the student will engage with it.

Our Head of Engineering and ex-Pro-Vice-Chancellor, John Fothergill, told us of a strategy he had implemented in a recent course, in which 10% of the marks for every assignment were given for evidence that the student had responded to feedback given for the previous assignment.

Another strategy he had tried was to require each student to review a peer’s assignment according to a given set of assessment criteria. He then marked the students’ reviews of their peers’ work, rather than their actual assignments. This had the effect of ensuring that the students took more care than usual to familiarise themselves with the assessment criteria while writing their assignments.

These are relatively simple strategies to implement, with a potentially powerful impact on the teaching and learning process. Does anyone else have anecdotes or strategies to share about getting students to think carefully and critically about the assessment criteria and the feedback they receive?

Gabi Witthaus, 6 July 2009

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