Learning and teaching

Ensuring timeliness

Timely return of feedback is one of the biggest problems the academics have in relation to feedback and assessment and also a great source of student dissatisfaction.

What is timely return of feedback?

 The University Assessment and Feedback policy stipulate:

"Feedback should be returned in a timely manner, and the extent, nature and timing of feedback for each task must be made clear to students in advance so that they can make the best use of the 12 feedback (see Appendix 6). The University norm for the provision of feedback is that this should be provided within three working weeks of final submission of an assignment. Where this is not practicable, a clear rationale must be provided to the students."

However, as Gibbs points out 'feedback should be timely in that it is received by students while it still matters to them and in time for them to pay attention to further learning or receive further assistance' (Gibbs, 2010a, p.3). The further away from the submission, the less effective feedback is.  Hence with a large number of assessments the university timeframe of three weeks may be too late for the feedback to be useful to students.

Why is it important?

The purpose of feedback is to provide students with guidance as to how to improve their work. If that guidance is not received in time, the feedback cannot be used, resulting in lack of knowledge as to where that improvement should be made. Additionally, feedback impacts greatly on student satisfaction with their programme and the university, and therefore heavily impacts the NSS scores. In 2015 only 64% of the University of Greenwich students said that their feedback was prompt. This percentage, is however, the average in the HE sector and therefore a concern to many universities.

Strategies to meet the deadlines

While delivering timely feedback is generally a struggle, there are certain strategies that can be used to make the process faster. Those strategies can be employed on two levels:

  • at the point of assessment design - Considering how to optimise feedback by choosing different types of assessment.
  • at practical level - be clear with students what types of feedback you are providing and how to interpret them. Most importantly, help your students to prepare for understand your feedback and manage their expectation for the return of feedback.