Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The 3 P's of Good Feedback

Butterfly Yet another paper about feedback in higher education - because it's still one of the major problems.

This fairly low-power study uses a budgeting methodology to ask what students value, in other words gives them a notional budget and ask them how they would spend it.
For "Lecturer qualities", Good feedback comes top, Interactive lecturing style bottom. So all those years of being told to be interactive in lectures don't mean much - students want your boring PowerPoints (and to know what's in the exam).
For "Feedback information" Highlights the skills I need to improve for future assignments is top and Corrects grammatical errors is bottom.

For me however the most striking message from this paper is an almost throwaway comment in the Introduction on what students want from feedback:
  • Prompt - fair enough, although I suspect that for students prompt means 21 seconds or 21 minutes after submission, not 21 days.
  • Personal - group feedback for that class of over 300 is a stopgap which really isn't going to satisfy demand.
  • Positive - it doesn't matter if they can't write (in spite of what employers say), you can only engage them if you give them good news quickly.

Winstone, N.E., Nash, R.A., Rowntree, J., & Menezes, R. (2015) What do students want most from written feedback information? Distinguishing necessities from luxuries using a budgeting methodology. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 20 Aug 2015 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1075956
Feedback is a key concern for higher education practitioners, yet there is little evidence concerning the aspects of assessment feedback information that higher education students prioritise when their lecturers' time and resources are stretched. One recent study found that, in such circumstances, students actually perceive feedback information itself as a luxury rather than a necessity. We first re-examined that finding by asking undergraduates to "purchase" characteristics to create the ideal lecturer, using budgets of differing sizes to distinguish necessities from luxuries. Contrary to the earlier research, students in fact considered good feedback information the single biggest necessity for lecturers to demonstrate. In a second study, we used the same method to examine the characteristics of feedback information that students value most. Here, the most important perceived necessity was guidance on improvement of skills. In both studies, students? priorities were influenced by their individual approaches to learning. These findings permit a more pragmatic approach to building student satisfaction in spite of growing expectations and demands.

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