Learning and teaching

Engaging students with feedback

The aims of feedback are to inform the student about his or her performance and to guide them as to how to improve their work. However, quite often students do not engage with feedback and focus solely on their grade as the means for providing information about how well they are doing. Here are some common reasons why students are not engaged with their feedback:

  • Lack of understanding of the importance and usefulness of feedback

Students bring into their HE experience habits or assumptions developed in their previous educational contexts. This means that as often the grade was the final and most important outcome of their work in the past, that this is what they are primarily interested in at university. It is important therefore to educate students of the differences between secondary/ FE context and HE. This can be done via feedback sessions or leaflets.

  • Difficulty in understanding the language of feedback,  inability to understand a lecturer's language

If the language used in feedback is vague and does not refer to specific areas of student work, students may decide to disengage. Carol Withey, Senior Lecturer in Law, recognised this problem and created a handbook, which explains common feedback comments, explains professional standards and links them to examples.

  • Inability to see the relevance of feedback for this particular assignment 

A common problem lecturers report is students not picking up their feedback.This often happens when it is the final assignment and there is no link to any future work (or students are unable to see this link).

  • Inability to read feedback 

A common problem with feedback that is handwritten, is difficulty in reading somebody else's handwriting. If students can't understand what the feedback says, they can't engage with it. The easiest solution for the problem of illegible feedback is introducing e-feedback. This can be done by using  Turnitin features in GradeMark, such as Rubrics or QuickMarks or using audiovisual feedback.

Here is a feedback leaflet, aimed at students, to guide them and encourage them to use feedback.