Feedback, feedforward or feedaround?

This is another of those ideas that others probably thought of years ago, but I’ve been a bit slow on the uptake. In summary, findings about the effectiveness or otherwise of feedback probably depend on what the feedback is meant to be used for. The usual OU scenario is a student receiving feedback on a tutor-marked assignment and (supposedly) using this feedback to improve for next time. But in other contexts, the feedback may be intended to enable the student to improve the same piece of work. And the ‘three attempts with increasing feedback’ that we provide on interactive computer-marked assignments perhaps has more in common with the second of these than the first.

I’ve been reading today about an interesting piece of work (Lipnevich, A.A. & Smith, J.K. (2009) “I really need feedback to learn:” students’ perspectives of the differential feedback messages, Educational Assessment Evaluation & Accountability, 21, 347-367). It’s interesting because it is one of the first studies that I’ve come across that considers the impact of whether students believe the comments they are receiving to come from a human marker or from a computer. Students were grouped into those who received detailed comments on their work believing this to come from a computer; those who received detailed comments on their work believing it to come from a human marker; and those didn’t receive detailed feedback at all. The groups were further subdivided by those who were given an overall grade and those who weren’t, and those who received praise and those who didn’t. This paper is a description of focus group discussions with the various groups of students, and in addition to the conclusions about receipt of feedback from a computer or a human marker (which I will talk about in a later posting),  there are some very interesting conclusions about the usefulness of comments, grade and praise. In summary: detailed comments were useful, grades were perceived to sometimes get in the way (so I may need to eat my words from my previous post) and praise was nice to receive but not directly conducive to learning.

BUT…the context here was the first draft of an essay that students subsequently had to resubmit, in the light of the feedback received, as an examinable component. Effective feedback on TMAs may just look quite different. And I wonder what we can do to make our iCMA feedback more effective. Watch this space.

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One Response to Feedback, feedforward or feedaround?

  1. Sally Jordan says:

    Seems a bit sad adding a comment on my own blog, but I’ve realised that Mirablle Walker in her 2009 paper ‘Investigation into written comments on assignments’ (Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(1), 67-78) also recognised the difference between feedback on past tasks (what she called ‘retrospective gap-altering feedback’) and feedback to be used in the future (‘Future gap-altering feedback’).

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