Last changed 5 April 2016 ............... Length about 800 words (8,000 bytes).
(Document started on 30 Jan 2010.) This is a WWW document maintained by Steve Draper, installed at You may copy it. How to refer to it.

Web site logical path: [] [~steve] [rap] [this page]

Elective feedback

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

The idea is, that the learner / author asks for the feedback they want e.g. by attaching a cover sheet with 3 questions on. N.B. "elective feedback" is sometimes used differently, to refer to feedback by students on an elective course (e.g. a period abroad). Here it is a good name for feedback the learner only gets if they want it, and if they ask for it.

There are several independent reasons why this is a good idea:

  1. Getting students to think about what they want to know, and ask for it, is a way of making them pro-active about their learning in general and the feedback process in particular. This is good for learners as an attribute (self-regulation), as a learning skill, at the metacognitive level.
  2. Regardless of whether it is a good learning outcome, it makes the use of feedback much more productive immediately, on the spot. It makes it a lot more likely that the learner will attend to and use the feedback.
  3. Getting positive feedback on a specific issue. When I've got students to do it, quite often they ask for feedback on an aspect that they are worried about but that actually they are doing fine. This means that they would never get (positive) feedback on it otherwise. In other words, at least for essay marking, you won't get specific positive feedback (there is no end to the things a given essay did right) unless you ask for it: but clearly students sometimes need this information.
  4. Cost control. Feedback costs serious staff time, which is a small finite supply. This can be used to reduce the amount of time staff spend writing feedback comments, while targeting the students and points that actually need comments.

There are several people who've used it, and several names for the approach, including:

See also the Edinburgh "enhancing feedback" website on elective feedback.

Relationship to self-assessment

Note that when I got my students to do both formative self-assessment and elective feedback, they said it didn't add anything. Requiring a mark may add something; but for formative purposes, elective and self-assessment may cover the same ground w.r.t. intrinsic benefit to the learner (getting comments from others however adds some value).

Web site logical path: [] [~steve] [rap] [this page]
[Top of this page]