Effective feedback

“As long as we hold this image of feedback as being something that one person gives to another person to educate that person, we’ve missed the ultimate point of the feedback system…”

Sound familiar? How about

“Feedback as a concept (or the thing that happens when you talk into your microphone too close to the speaker) is simply information that goes into a system (and comes back at you with a high-pitched squeal). What happens next is where things get interesting – the postfeedback learning, which is the point of feedback in the first place.”

However it may surprise you to hear that these quotes are not from a book on assessment, but rather from “Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world” by Jennifer Garvey Berger. I’ve been on a leadership course at work for much of 2014 and I’ve been thinking a lot about the concepts, especially the challenging issue academic leadership. Just how do you get the best out of clever people? The quotes highlight some extremely interesting similarities with what I have been banging on about for years, in this blog and elsewhere.

 The first point of similarity is that it is not the feedback intervention itself that is significant but rather the way in which the person receiving the feedback intervention responds to it. And if the person receiving the feedback intervention is in charge of their own response, so much the better.

However, feedback, purely as information, still needs to happen. In the staff management situation, sadly sometimes people don’t appreciate when there are issues that need to be addressed. So there is a need for a very clear exchange of information. In the case of feedback on assessed tasks, this is one area where e-assessment has huge potential. Computers can give information in a non-judgemental and impersonal way, leaving the interpretation of this information to people.

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