Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, and Feedback

Feedback As the National Student Survey cranks into gear again, striking fear into the blackened hearts of vice-chancellors everywhere, we've just been discussing the now annual problem of "how do we get better results for the feedback category?"

It's clear that when it comes to feedback for students, quality does not equal quantity, and less is (sometimes) more. Of course, some students engage with feedback and benefit from the experience, but many do not. But there's one type of feedback that all students instantly recognize and read: the mark they've been awarded. But while marks are an indicator of past achievement, they're a pretty poor feed-forward mechanism to improve future performance. And once they have their mark, many students stop reading.

So it seems that the answer is clear. Step off the treadmill, stop marking student's work, and give them more useful feedback instead. If we were totally focussed on improving student's performance, that's what we'd do. But I can't see it happening somehow.

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