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Issues in learning and teaching: Feedback

This step explores the principles of good feedback.
© UNSW Sydney
With higher educational institutions experiencing increased class sizes over the last few decades, opportunities to provide ongoing personalised high quality feedback have decreased. Moves to blended, online and flipped classroom modes of delivery are changing the types and methods by which feedback is given.
In the previous step we looked at what students think about assessment. In this step, we look at the closely related topic of feedback. Regardless of the mode, timely, effective feedback has one of the most powerful influences on a student’s learning and achievement (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Students value timely and useful feedback (James, McInnis & Devlin, 2002). Both teachers and students have a responsibility for feedback. A central pillar of the UNSW Scientia Education Model (SEM) is feedback.

Good feedback practice

Good feedback supports learning when it:
  • encourages students to think critically about their work and to reflect on what they need to do to improve (self-assessment)
  • promotes dialogue between staff and students
  • is timely and prompt – while it is clearly relevant;
  • is aligned to the purpose of the assignment and to criteria
  • clarifies what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards)
  • is clear and specific and in enough detail
  • delivers high quality information to students about their learning
  • focuses on mastery, not effort
  • encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
  • has a forward-facing focus, is consequential – aimed at progressing learning and improving future efforts
  • is efficient for staff, and
  • helps teachers and students adapt their practice (student learning and our teaching strategies). (Compilation informed by: Gibbs & Simpson, 2005; HIgher Education Academy, 2013; Nicol & MacFarlane-Dick, 2006)

Examples of feedback strategies

ExamplesDimensions of feedback modesExamples
comments on first drafts of assignmentformative, summativepeer grading, rationale for a grade
individual consultations, comments on assignments, peer reviewindividual, genericsummary of group strengths, weaknesses
peer feedback in groupsmanual, automatedautomated feedback in quizzes and adaptive tutorials
Class discussion of assignment in progress, audio commentary on student workoral, writtenposts to discussion board, emails to students
self assessments, peer assessmentstudent-led, teacher-ledannotated examples of previous assessments, industry guest’s comments in a discussion forum

Taking point

Looking at the examples of feedback strategies above, consider these questions:
  • Which of these strategies are most beneficial for students’ learning?
  • Given the time and resource constraints, which strategies are more efficient, particularly in large classes?
Gibbs, G., & Simpson, C. (2004–2005). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3–31.
Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.
Higher Education Academy (2013). HEA Feedback Toolkit. The Higher Education Academy.
Nicol, D., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), pp. 199–218

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic of feedback there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf document for this step.
© UNSW Sydney
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Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

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