Making The Most Of Feedback
Students regularly seek out and read the feedback attached to their assignments. However, it is not uncommon for there to be confusion about what actually counts as ‘feedback’, and in particular how it can help you develop your own skills of evaluation so that you get better and better at judging the quality of your work.
This guide should help answer some of the questions you may have, as well as make clear what you should expect in terms of the feedback you receive during your course. You will also be encouraged to undertake some activities that will help you make the most of your feedback.
What is feedback?
You will be continually receiving feedback during your experience at the University of Salford, in many different guises. It’s important that you are aware of this and that you can identify feedback so that you can make the best use of it. Feedback is the term used for the comments that you receive about your performance from the people you are studying with and the people who are supervising your studies. Feedback should tell you what you did right, where you went wrong and how you could improve next time.
Formative feedback is the sort that you receive as you go along, which can help you develop and improve until you reach the stage where you are ready for the assessments that contribute to your module mark. You may receive formative feedback from your tutors, your peers (e.g. in group-work situations), and if your programme includes work- based placements, you will also receive formative feedback from supervisors and even members of the public.
Summative feedback is the sort that is given for the assessments that contribute to your module mark. Summative assessments are designed to test you to see if you have achieved the Learning Outcomes within the Module Specification (see Appendix 1). The Assessment Brief (see example in Appendix 2) will also tell you what the assessment marking criteria are (i.e. which of the specified module Learning Outcomes are being tested). The measure of how well you perform against the assessment criteria (i.e. your mark/grade) is based upon the expected Grade Descriptors (see example in Appendix 3) for your level of study.
The University is committed to providing you with feedback on your assessed work which is both timely (within 15 days) and which promotes your future learning and achievement.
For all written assessed work worth more than 20 credits, your feedback will include more than just a mark or grade. For example, you will be able to view an annotated version of your assignment that explains in detail what you did right, where you went wrong and how you could improve in the future. In addition, you may receive feedback as a group, either in electronic form or as part of a seminar.
What kinds of summative assessment feedback might I get?
You may receive some or all of the following types of feedback on your summative assessments:
Annotated comments on your submitted script
Generic commentary explaining how the cohort generally performed on each exam question
Free-text word-processed feedback sheet, maybe with paragraphs explaining how you performed against each of the assessment criteria
Matrix/grid showing the range of possible performance against the assessment criteria and how your marks have been assigned (see example in Appendix 4).
Small group explanation – seminar or tutorial
1-2-1 meeting with your tutor (it is normally up to you to request this, but it is important to be proactive and seek this out if you feel you need more clarification)
The right approach to receiving feedback
It is very tempting to disregard all feedback except your mark/grade and it can be a challenge to resist feeling hurt by critical comments when you have tried very hard to perform well. Also, some people are more skilful at providing feedback than others. However, if you want to make the most use of feedback, you need to seek out all the feedback you can and take on board all that has been provided and act upon it.
Remember:All feedback is useful.
Take on board all types of feedback. Positive feedback helps you to build on what you have done to do even better next time (it’s okay to feel proud!). More critical feedback
is perhaps the most useful and helps you identify where you went wrong so that you can do better next time (how this makes you feel can actually help motivate you to do better – there’s no shame in that!).
You should thank people for giving you feedback, even when it’s hard to take –
it will be useful in the future.
You should be proactive and seek feedback from others as much as possible. Don’t avoid engaging with your feedback just because you don’t want to feel hurt!
You may find keeping all of your feedback in one place helps as it makes it easier to obtain an overview and to identify common issues.
Feeding forward: how can I use feedback to improve my work?
It’s not always immediately obvious how you can use feedback from one assessment to help you do better with the next assessment. Especially as the subject matter and topic may be different every time. It is easy to understand how feedback about spelling or referencing might be used to feed forward to your next assessment. However, there are other common skills for academic assessments such as the quality of your written expression and your ability to explain, discuss and argue points related to the subject. Subject-specific feedback can be used to help you with your future work on other subjects; it just needs interpreting beyond the scope of the individual assessment.
Remember: Learning is a continuous experience –
Stage One: Having an experience
Stage Two: reviewing the experience
Stage Three: concluding the experience
Stage Four: Planning the next step
As you can see, you will need to do some work with your feedback to identify relevant advice that is transferable to other future assessments!
A key tool to help you do this is the process of reflection.
The process of reflection is essential and will help you to:
Identify what was good about your work, giving you something you can build upon. Identify where and why you went wrong/missed opportunities, so you know what to
do next time (e.g. knowledge gaps or a lack of critical analysis). Identify academic skills that need to be developed.
This process can help you examine your feedback and identify key learning points from it for future assessments. There are many different approaches to reflection and you may already have developed a preferred method, but if you have not tried it before, here are three simple steps you could follow:
1. Check what you were expected to do in the assessment
Before you use the feedback, re-examine the assignment brief, and the related Learning Outcomes (you might need to go back over the Module Specification). Try and view the work you submitted and the feedback from the point of view of an assessor.
2. Analyse your feedback and identify key learning points
If you have Personal Development Planning (PDP) within your programme, you can include reflection on your feedback within your PDP. This usually works better if you write things down.
Within your reflection:
Think about why each comment has been made and how you might use it to improve your future work. Identify the key learning points from each piece of feedback. For example, your feedback may suggest that you had not understood what you had been required to do. Although the mark/grade you received for that assessment is permanent, a key learning point here is that in future it is important to ensure you clearly read
and understand the assessment brief and look across them all to see if you have addressed them in your draft
Consider the feedback for all your assessments for the latest semester/year to see if there are any comments/themes common to them all. For example, there may be a key learning point, perhaps that your written expression, syntax and grammar could
Look for evidence of your progress in your feedback by comparing the feedback from one semester or year to the next (not just the marks!). For example, have your referencing skills improved? Have you improved in demonstrating your understanding of a subject? Have you been able to synthesise a cogent academic argument from a reliable and valid evidence base?
3. Action Plan
The next part of the reflection is to come up with an action plan. When you receive feed- back it is tempting to reflect superficially and simply try to make a mental note of what you should do next, hoping you will remember it for next time. This approach is not really very useful. You may just find that writing down your thoughts or talking to someone about your feedback helps. However, a written action plan is worth the effort. Action plans don’t have to be really formal – and perhaps:
It could just be a checklist of things you can do to improve your next assessment based on feedback you have received previously.
You may need to seek support from the University’s student support services. For example, if you think you need to understand more about how to structure your work, or about phrases such as ‘discuss’ or ‘critically analyse’, you could access the University’s Study Skills resources http://www.careers.salford.ac.uk/studyskills. In addition, you could book an appointment with your Personal Tutor and ask them to clarify what you are being asked to do in your assignment.
You may need to make an appointment with the assessor who marked your work to discuss the feedback.
You may need to make an appointment with your Personal Tutor for support with areas that you are personally struggling with (e.g. parts of the subject matter, or your PDP in relation to assessments).