MicroCPD: Feedback as a Process rather than a Product

Recognising that academics are busy, HEFi will offer ‘Micro-CPD’. Each week, a new topic will be covered in the following format:

1. A 90 second video summarising information on an important aspect of teaching and learning
2. For the curious: a link to a summary of a relevant paper/resource.
3. For the very interested: a link to the further information.

This week: Sarah King talks about the thorny issue of assessment and feedback

“Feedback as Dialogue” – David Carless, University of Hong Kong

The context for the piece is students’ perceptions of feedback as something that “comes too late to be useful” and, as a result, is not acted upon. Carless aims to propose ways in which feedback becomes a dialogue between staff and students rather than a product that is delivered. In that way feedback becomes part of the curriculum design, offering regular opportunities for students to engage.

Carless proposes five ways in which dialogic feedback could be implemented:

1.       Guidance as Feedback

Carless notes that “an important part of the guidance process is clarifying goals, expectations, and standards.” He suggests that a common strategy is to get students involved in a process of generating criteria or rubrics and, through doing so, to engage them in considering what good performance looks like. Students find samples of student work useful and when they engage in a dialogue about these samples this helps students to understand the nature of good quality work.

2.      Peer Feedback

This is not peer assessment but rather students looking at each other’s work to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Research has shown that giving peer feedback is often more valuable than receiving it. Students often find this challenging and Carless suggests that it is important to share this rationale with students so that they are clear about the benefits.

3.    Technology-Facilitated Feedback

Technology offers a vehicle to enable peer feedback. This might be through clickers or a virtual learning environment, for example. Resources like PeerMark allow students to review and evaluate each other’s work. Even more traditional forms of transmission-based feedback can now be provided through audio and video which is often perceived by students to be more personalised.

4.       Internal Feedback

This relates to students self-monitoring effectively. Carless suggests that involving students in activities where they have to make academic judgments enables them to develop this skill and then apply it to their own work, and these opportunities should be embedded throughout the curriculum.

5.       Dialogic Written Feedback

Carless proposes that there are opportunities for dialogue within even the most traditional forms of written feedback. Students could be required on an assignment cover sheet to state which aspects of their work they would like feedback on, which, before they have even submitted, engages them in self-reflection and may also create efficiencies for staff, enabling them to focus on the areas requested by students. Written feedback could also pose questions for students rather than making statements and the feedback “loop” could be closed by requiring students to act upon the feedback and re-submit.

Carless intends the examples provided to be “workload neutral”. Developing peer and self-feedback, and the use of technology can be extended even to larger class sizes.  Focussing on feedback processes as part of curriculum design may result in less time being spent on marking at the end of modules and many of the examples provided could be used in class. Importantly, however, a culture needs to be developed within the classroom that encourages and supports these approaches.

Carless, D. (2016). Feedback as dialogue. Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, p. 1-6

David Carless’ article “Feedback as Dialogue” offers opportunity to signpost (for University of Birmingham staff via the Professional Development Gateway) how technology could facilitate some of the feedback strategies outlined in the article.  These links are provided by Birmingham Digital.

Guidance as Feedback

Peer Feedback

Technology-Facilitated Feedback