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What if feedback only counted if the learner used it?

Title: What if feedback only counted if the learner used it?
Date/time: Wednesday 7 Nov 2012. 4:15pm - 4:55pm, followed by drinks
Occasion: Life sciences teaching and learning seminar
Place: University of Dundee   Tower Building
How to get there: marker

Steve Draper,   School of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

Slides: PDF
Handout: PDF file
Related material:



There is no point in giving feedback unless the learner uses it: modifies or actively reappraises something specific as a result.

Design Principle

Ensure there is something that triggers the learner into processing any feedback into actions.

This talk discusses the above candidate principles for feedback. As you know, most teachers give written feedback as if it is a required deliverable, like a checkout assistant handing every customer the printed receipt, even though few use them. The recent fad for setting return times for feedback is also like this: guaranteeing a service with no attention to whether it has any useful effect. E-assessment is if anything even more focussed on "delivery" without the slightest regard for actual impact. What if we judged our feedback strictly by the effects it had on the recipient learners?

This would apply equally to hand-written and digital assessment; and to essay-based and calculation-based subjects. I present several techniques (each of which has been trialled successfully) which address this in different contexts, covering both marks and open-ended feedback comments. Provisionally, I cluster common learner actions in response to feedback into three groups:

Crucial to these interventions seems to be that, in one way or another, they prompt students into processing the feedback. This does not seem to happen automatically. Previously I followed a lot of advice on feedback e.g. balancing positive and negative, stimulating discussion of it with both the tutor and peers; yet without much sign of impact. Evidence of learners actually learning from it has been absent. Recently however I've come across two different cases where there has been something approaching success. I discuss the issue, the many signs of "no effect", and these glimmers of hope. I will discuss Feedback Calendars, prompting students to process feedback, and "2D" mark presentation (expressed both normatively and ipsatively).

Any inquiries: contact Nick Brewer

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