Feedback principles

The quality of feedback provided to students about their academic performance is a fundamental element of the University of Leicester's approach to learning and teaching, as articulated in the Student Feedback Code of Practice.

Good feedback can be as valuable a learning method as any teaching; in the case of distance learning programmes, feedback is often one of the main teaching and learning activities. To be useful to the student, feedback needs to be:
  • Timely. It is of no use to the student if they don’t receive feedback on their first submission before they have to submit their second. Overarching that, the University requires campus-based programmes to return feedback within 21 calendar days, and distance learning programmes within 28 days.
  • Clear. Feedback should be easy to read, and written in a compact but direct and to-the-point style.
  • Relevant. Feedback should relate specifically to the student and skills assessed. For each piece of feedback, a student should be able to see exactly what they need to do to improve or develop before the next submission. Phrases such as ‘be more critical’ are common, but next to useless if the student doesn’t know how to be critical already (or what that means).
  • Positive. Feedback shouldn’t be provided with rose-tinted glasses, but it should always focus on improving, rather than confirming poor performance. Focus on a solid base, and provide feedback to help the student take steps in the right direction.
Nicol and Macfarlane (2006, pp 205-215) suggest seven principles of good feedback practice, that might strengthen the students’ capacity to self-regulate their own performance. Good feedback practice:
  1. helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);
  2. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning;
  3. delivers high quality information to students about their learning;
  4. encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;
  5. encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;
  6. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance;
  7. provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching.

David J. Nicol & Debra Macfarlane‐Dick (2006) Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31:2, 199-218, DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090

The Feedback Handbook from the University of Sheffield School of Architecture (SSoA) provides a very good guide to giving and receiving feedback.

Feedback Guide for Lecturers, University of Winchester, via TESTA

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