Thursday, August 22, 2013

Working smarter not harder with feedback

Feeback checklist Earlier today Duncan wrote about feedback and said:

"Feedback mark one isn’t sustainable [dumb feedback as a behaviourist pedagogy which assumes that not only is the information given sufficient to actually produce a change, but that it’s unambiguous and that students will actually make use of it]. First, it absorbs a huge amount of time and resources, but its effectiveness is questionable in actually influencing student behaviour and improving student outcomes, since students may simply look at the mark and ignore the carefully considered comments. Secondly, if there is a dual emphasis on student improvement and on improving NSS scores then the problem is that students don’t recognise the feedback they receive as actually being feedback. Thirdly, mark one feedback isn’t fit for purpose since it doesn’t equip students for life post-graduation." The Culture of Student Feedback

And he's quite right. We are chasing our tails in an escalating crescendo of never enough feedback by taking the wrong turning and pushing feedback to students rather than cultivating demand for targeted feedback. Such a change is not easy to implement, but there are plenty of models which employ much smarter use of feedback than our current blanket default setting. Here's one I particularly like, partly because it has over a decade of evidence to back up its effectiveness:

Feeding forward from summative assessment: the Essay Feedback Checklist as a learning tool. (2013) Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 1-10, doi:10.1080/02602938.2013.822845
Owing to the increasing diversity of assessments in higher education, feedback should be provided to students in a format that can assist future and alternative work. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Essay Feedback Checklist on future alternative assessments. Participants were assigned to one of two groups, one of which completed the checklist prior to assessment 1 (essay) and received feedback using this method. Attainment on assessment 1 and assessment 2 (examination) were taken as pre- and post-test scores. Results revealed increased assessment scores for the checklist group, compared to those who received conventional feedback. Focus group data indicated that students particularly liked elements of the checklist as a feedback method, but potential drawbacks were also highlighted. Implications and future use of the checklist is then discussed.

The essay feedback checklist (EFC) (Norton, L. S., & Norton, J. C. W. (2001) Essay Feedback: How Can It Help Students Improve Their Academic Writing?; Norton, L. (2011) The essay feedback checklist (EFC). A simple tool for: i) helping students write better essays, ii) targeting tutor feedback more effectively, and, iii) providing research data) works like this:

Students are asked to submit a cover sheet with their work which says:
Before you hand in your essay, please give a rating of how confident you feel about having met each of the assessment criteria:

C = Confident - I think I have met this criterion to the best of my ability
P = Partially confident – I have tried to meet this criterion but would appreciate more feedback
N = Not at all confident – I do not understand this criterion and need more guidance
  • Addresses the question
  • Clearly organized with structure appropriate to the question
  • Quality and relevance of the argument
  • Synthesis of a range of material into a coherent whole
  • Depth of understanding in relation to underlying psychological issues
  • Evaluation of theoretical concepts and research evidence
  • Appropriate academic writing style
  • Correct referencing

After marking the essay, tutors give feedback which focuses on mismatches between student self-assessment and actual performance.

One reason I particularly like this approach is because of the use of checklists. Most other professions have adopted such systems now although HE seems strangely reluctant to do so, although I have seen their effective use at other institutions. I plan to give this a try during the coming year, although I have to figure out how it fits in with the use of audio feedback, which I also plan to continue using. Any suggestions?

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