Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Towards a student-centred definition of feedback

The more I think about feedback (which is quite a lot recently), the less interested I am in pushing mechanical feedback to students as a one way flow. Yet with increasing student numbers, we seem to be going backwards rather than forwards in having the two-way conversations that elucidate misunderstanding and can be the only really useful form of interaction between students and teaching staff. I certainly intent to target my feedback if the coming academic year using the proven checklist system I blogged about last week (Working smarter not harder with feedback).

The feedback crisis is not helped by students clearly not know what feedback is, or recognizing when they receive it (Bevan, R., Badge, J., Cann, A., Willmott, C., & Scott, J. (2008) Seeing Eye-to-Eye? Staff and Student Views on Feedback. Bioscience Education, Volume 12, doi: 10.3108/beej.12.1).

Scott, S.V. (2013) Practising what we preach: towards a student-centred definition of feedback. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-9. 19 Aug 2013 doi: 10.1080/13562517.2013.827639
Students appear to have an almost insatiable appetite for receiving feedback and the scholarly literature has acknowledged its central importance for learning. And yet there is no widely accepted definition of feedback, most definitions reflecting the perspective of the teacher rather than student. When staff at the University of New South Wales who had put a lot of time into providing feedback nevertheless failed to score highly on the course satisfaction survey question on feedback, staff conjectured that their students might not recognize what they are providing as constituting feedback. A study was undertaken to find out just how students would define feedback. This article provides the background to the study, describes its design and presents the definition of feedback as conceptualised by the students, and then considers its significance.

"Students seem to want virtually continuous feedback", not the jerky, disjointed one-way experience they receive at present.

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