Friday, 28 November 2014

The Feedback Record - Get it, Log it, Use it!

The issue of storing or recoding feedback for use across modules emerged as one of the key themes of the Flexible Formative Feedback Project. While some departments provide support and resources to students to help them reflect on their feedback and apply it to future assignments, the project team felt that a more consistent and joined up way to record, reflect on and refer back to feedback was needed to support student learning across modules. 37% of our student respondents keep or file their feedback in some way, although many of those students conceded that they rarely refer back to it in the future. 

'I write it down, but mostly cannot take anything from it, especially from exam scripts because it tends to be very vague and not helpful for the future.’ (BMS, level 3)

‘I try to extract the useful bit, that is, specifically what to do to improve for next time: so, what I did wrong, how it was wrong, and how to do it right.’ (Aerospace, level 4) 

‘I read it to see what it says, but generally don't do much beyond that as my module is over and I will be tested on a totally different area.’ (English, PGT) 

‘When we receive group feedback it is usually difficult to transfer and apply into other areas of work.’ (Architecture, level 1) 

'I usually file it away. I would like to think I act upon it but usually I do not.’ (Medicine, level 3)

Explore our Feedback Portal and have a go at logging your feedback in the Feedback Record, a new online tool for reflecting on, recording, rating and referring back to feedback over the course of a university degree. Please let us know if you have any thoughts or comments on how to develop and improve the resources.

Friday, 12 September 2014

What is a 'feedback pledge'?

A feedback pledge is a way to ensure integrity and authenticity in feedback. If assessment and feedback can represent a kind of coded message, then students need to be provided with the correct tools to crack it.The pledge is a way to transform feedback into an open and transparent process of intellectual engagement. It is also something to refer back to when faced with an intimidating pile of student assessments. This is my feedback pledge, what would yours look like?

1. I will be honest and direct in my criticism
By criticising some aspects of your work I am engaging you, as sophisticated learners, in a dialogue on academic standards. I will not flinch from criticism, but I will anchor it, where possible, to constructive, formative advice.

2. I will not offer praise lightly
My feedback will not include empty compliments or platitudes. When I do offer praise on some aspect of your work, it is because it achieves a high standard that would be worth replicating in future assignments.

3. My feedback is based on informed opinion
Although I am by some measures an ‘expert’ in the field, my knowledge is by no means exhaustive and my opinion is but one of many perspectives on the subject. I welcome challenges to my opinion so long as they are well-argued and substantiated.

4. My feedback will be forward-looking and action-oriented
Although I may correct occasional factual errors, I will direct my feedback towards aspects of the writing, analysis and critical thinking processes that can be applied to future assignments and learning.

5. My feedback will be enquiry-led
I will frame my feedback around questions for further enquiry and provide guidance, wherever possible, towards sources and strategies for consideration. In many cases the questions will have no answer, but should act as cues for further reading, research and dialogue.

6. I encourage you to respond to my feedback
Although your feedback may seem like an end point, it should be treated as the starting point of a process of interpretation, use and, if necessary, dialogue. If you would like clarification or further advice, please ask!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Not sure what to do with your feedback? Here are our students' top tips!

Keep an open mind!
  • Don't be offended if someone disagrees or picks at what you have done as it will enable to produce better work in the future. 
  •  Use it as a guide in future work to improve your writing style and content rather than just viewing it as criticism. 
  • Really look through it properly, take it as constructive criticism and not just criticism :) because at the end of the day we're all still developing and learning.
  • Don't take it to heart, constructive criticism is the key in any research - you won't always be correct but you can learn from your mistakes.
  • Depends on the feedback but I'd say don't be put off if you only get negative feedback as some markers only focus on what could be improved, rather than giving encouragement.
  • Expect the worst and you may be pleasantly surprised!
 Don’t be too focused on grade alone!
  • You might be tempted to skip straight to the mark at the end of the report, but make sure you understand why you got that mark. Did you do everything that was within your ability and if not, why? Try to be self-critical as well as receiving criticism from your tutors.
  • Don't just look at the grade! And discuss any feedback points so you are sure what the tutor means
Make sure you know what’s on offer
  • Make the most of feedback you get in first year because you don't get many opportunities after that!
  • Make the most of all opportunities and use office hours if you have questions: most staff are very approachable and if you don't ask you'll just continue to worry!
  • Go to office hours. They're very useful and you can ask questions about problems which may or may not have been homework questions.
  • Use the 301 service and see an essay tutor, look online for advice offered by other departments and universities.
  • Book slots early for feedback sessions as they can get booked up quickly.
Seek out other forms of feedback
  • Get your friends to look at your work if the department are not supporting you. It's not a substitute but it is better than nothing.
  • Peer feedback is often useful in terms of your own work and peers to understand different ways of answering a question.
  • I usually discuss it with my parents.
  • Get as much variety as possible, such as from teachers and other students.
  • Take any feedback going as all types of feedback are useful and you can learn from even the smallest of things.
  • Make the most of positive points, seeking help from peers that may have done well in an aspect you need to improve on. 
 Don’t be afraid to seek further advice…
  • If you don't understand the feedback go and ask!
  • If you do not get feedback or not enough detailed feedback, just ask your tutor. In most cases, they will be happy to go through your work with you to point you in the right direction and to show where you lost marks.
  • If you are unsure about what something means, then it is best to clarify it with your tutor to make sure you're getting it right the second time.
  • Always take into account what your tutors say, they are highly experienced and knowledgeable, and know what you need to do to pass each module and the course.
  • If you have questions, ask them. If you don't find your feedback useful, say so.
  • If you don't understand the feedback and still have some queries keep asking until you are satisfied and have a good understanding of the answer!
  • Pester your tutors, supervisors, other academics for feedback. Meet with them. It doesn't even need to be those teaching you or your module but still in your dept. Any will help!
  • Ask for more detail on how to turn criticism into positive change in your next essay.
…but make sure you prepare for meetings!
  • Definitely try and seek all the help you can get from your tutors. Try and have as much done before you seek feedback because it will be more effective.
  • Face to face is the way forward. Don't waste time with general questions. Tutors are far more enthusiastic about helping students they can see they have already pondered things in depth themselves.
 Keep a record of your feedback
  • Write it down, make sure you understand the reasons behind it, and act on it.
  • Really reading it helps, especially if its personal feedback to you. I sometimes write a few bullet points in pencil at the top of my work of previous feedback so i can keep in my mind what needs to be improved.
  • Keep going back to previous pieces of feedback when writing the next piece of work, so as to learn properly from mistakes made.
  • Collate a file of feedback which can be applied to future assignments and look over this on a regular basis.
  • Go back to feedback before and after writing your next assignment (before submitting it) to ensure mistakes have not been repeated.
  • Read it before starting a new assignment to have fresh in your mind what not to do and how to improve.
  • Revisit the feedback along with the piece of work submitted a few weeks after first receiving it, as I find this helps you notice your own mistakes and be more critical of your own work.
  • File the feedback away so you can look at it again when doing your next assignment.
Draw out the important bits!
  • If it's feedback on an individual question, remember that a general rule can often be taken and applied elsewhere.
  • Make a list of bullet points for key things you did well and key things to improve.
  • Don't just read it and put it in a draw, make notes of the positives and the negatives and then work on them.
  • Take note of the improvements that are suggested and implement these changes as soon as you can to demonstrate to your lecturers your ability to grow as a learner.
  • Make a note from feedback sheets and you will see if things are reoccurring so that you can focus on one weakness or a few to improve.  
  • Always keep it and make a note of where to improve on a sheet of paper so you can look at it in future when answering questions.
Make the mistakes in non-assessed work first!
  • My advice would be to submit specimen questions to module staff as they are always helpful and provide constructive feedback on your approach to exams! 
  • Submit drafts (if you can) to your tutor/whoever is marking your work, then take on board their comments.
  • SEND COMPLETED SPECIMEN QUESTIONS/ANSWERS TO MODULE LECTURERS. They almost always give prompt detailed advice on how to improve as well as a rough guide to the grade that would be given to that essay/answer if a real exam.
  • Hand in homework. Seems tedious but the feedback helps in the long run. 
Have realistic expectations! 
  • Ignore it sometimes, as it can be very vague and doesn't mean anything!
  • Just bear in mind that the people providing it are not perfect, and are often opinionated, just like any normal person.
  • Feedback is a supplement to independent learning, it is not meant to completely dictate your education or the work you produce. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Feedback Month: How Useful Was YOUR Feedback?

In the Autumn semester we asked Level One students what their expectations of feedback at university were. Now we are asking ALL students about their experiences of feedback.

As the Spring Semester gets underway, it's time to start applying feedback from the Autumn Semester to new assignments and exam preparation. What sort of feedback have you received so far and how useful has it been? What do you intend to do with it? By filling in our short survey, you can help to make a difference to feedback practice at the University of Sheffield. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete the survey and you will be in with a chance to win an ipod nano!

To participate in the survey, please click here.

We will publish the findings from this survey on the F3 blog, so watch this space for updates.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Feedback Expectations - Headline Findings

The F3 Project team captured the opinions of level one students before their first experiences of summative university feedback using an online and paper survey (n=288, 6.3% of new entrants) and small group interviews (n=28, conducted in student residences and focus groups). The headline findings were as follows:

1. Level one students have a sophisticated appreciation of the multiple roles of feedback at university that is strongly associated with improvement, but not limited to grade.

Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching Report: 
‘Although grades are important to students, feedback is not exclusively used by students as a gateway to high grades. It seems students also feel that feedback can help them to understand how their work has been marked, and subsequently what that mark says about how they have expressed their ideas and methods. Results suggest that students believe feedback can enhance the ongoing learning process that they are engaged with when completing their degree.’

Student quotations:
  • ‘A clear and honest opinion of my approach to the given coursework, identification of my strengths and weaknesses, as well as practical improvements which I may make in the future.’ 
  • ‘A means of improvement where I can hear about where I went wrong. But also a chance to hear what I am doing correctly so I can do it consistently.’

 2. Level one students perceive university feedback to be less detailed, less personal and less readily available than school feedback.

Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching Report: 
‘The key differences between university and school that were viewed most negatively were: The level of detail of feedback received; the number of opportunities available for students to receive feedback; the personalised aspect of feedback; the amount of one to one feedback that was received. 139 negative comments were made about university feedback compared with just 34 positive comments.’

Student quotations:
  • ‘At school, feedback is available more frequently and on a more personal level. University feedback is more formal.’ 
  • ‘[feedback] isn't presented to you as obviously - you have to seek it out. At school it is almost forced onto you.’

 3. A significant proportion of students aren’t getting, or don’t know that they are getting, sufficient advice on how to use feedback at university.

Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching Report: 
‘The data strongly suggests that students do not perceive that they are getting appropriate and sufficient advice on using university feedback. 49.3% of students identify that they are receiving either no advice or very little advice on making the most of the feedback they are given.’

Student quotations:
  • ‘It seems to be them telling us to note given feedback, that everything they do is a form of feedback, and not a lot of individualised, what I'd term 'proper', feedback.’ 
  • ‘Nothing much has been given. Mainly just an email or link on MOLE showing the marking criteria.’

 4. A blended approach combining elements of written and oral feedback appears to be valued by students as a way to understand and use feedback effectively.

For 78.8% of level one students written feedback is considered to be effective or very effective, while 76.3% consider oral feedback from a teacher to be effective or very effective. 69.5% rate both written and oral feedback as effective or very effective.  Comments suggest that many students expect feedback to be delivered as part of a process including generic or individual written feedback followed up by face-to-face support on interpreting and using it. 

Student quotations:
  • ‘Receiving written/oral word from the lecturer/tutor about my work; what was well done, what was poorly done, why I received the mark/grade given, what I can do to improve to reach a higher mark/grade’ 
  • ‘Receiving comments on essays or other work handed in and graded, discussing the grades with a member of staff (e.g. tutor)’

5. A significant number of level one students feel that limited access to personal, one-to-one feedback from a university tutor a particular challenge of the transition to HE.

Lack of personal or individual feedback and lack of one-to-one feedback were cited as key differences between school and university feedback. A number of students expressed a sense of intimidation when approaching university tutors for feedback, suggesting that the lack of a personal connection between learner and teacher can impact negatively on the feedback process. 

Student quotations:
  • ‘It’s harder to talk to someone in a university as it’s just so huge and widespread!’ 
  • ‘It’s not that comfortable to approach a tutor for help because you don’t have much of a relationship with them.’ 
  • 'It feels like you have to pester the lecturer/personal tutor to get feedback dialogue going. It feels like a one way communication.’ 



In the context of this feedback-rich environment, the F3 project aims to provide support to students and staff to maximise the usefulness of the feedback process and to make the case for the effectiveness of feedback for learning across modules. Its key goals are to:

  • Support students in making a successful transition from the more nurturing feedback environment of school to self-regulated learning at university.
  • Provide practical, evidence based recommendations to teaching staff to complement the University of Sheffield’s Principles of Feedback.
  • Support students in seeking out, recording and exploiting the full potential of the feedback that they are receiving. 
  • Enhance the quality of one-to-one interactions between students and module tutors and/or personal tutors.
Watch this space for a discussion of the Flexible Formative Feedback Project's proposed outputs.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Project Plans for the New Year

I’m Andrew, a 4th year medical student working on the F3 SALT team to improve feedback at the university. First of all I would like to say a big thank you to all level one students who engaged in our feedforward project in November. With so much data to go through it will be exciting to see what trends will emerge in our report based on the results. As well as providing us all with an in depth background relating to feedback transition from school to university, it also gives our project a good kick-start.

If you who have summative exams after the Christmas break (1st years and other years alike) on behalf of our team we wish you good luck. For those of you who are having your first summative exams in January I hope you are not finding it all too stressful. If you’re struggling, check out the website below which I have found helpful in the past. At the end of the day it is about implementing work into your routine and not tiring yourself to death. The most useful thing I find is drinking lots of water!

As well as wishing you luck, we thought we would give you a taste of what is to come for the New Year. After attending the annual steer group with the faculty leads involved with our feedback project it gave the team an idea of where to take the project and who to target. The plan so far is to work with ten individual departments, to build up a cross-section of disciplinary practice. We plan to produce produce feedback profiles that will provide evidence of the forms of assessment they use, education materials and training and information they provide to their students for how to obtain effective feedback. By comparing department results it will give us a better idea of what is working well and highlight areas for improvement. By discussing these issues with staff and students of all years in these departments, we can really get to grips with specific areas for feedback improvement. The student focus groups will be scheduled for February-March which will hopefully give you as students time to reflect on your feedback you have received for your summative exams.
That’s everything for now, have a very happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow and stay tuned on our blog over next year.
All the best,


Monday, 9 December 2013

Feedback Focus Groups

After a month of hard work and campaigning, F3EDFORWARD month culminated with our feedback focus groups, which took place on 29 November in the IC. We wanted to host a lunch as we thought that a free lunch would be a great way to draw in hungry first years in-between lectures! Furthermore, we wanted to create an informal environment allowing people to have a drink and chat. We worked with a small group of 8 level one students from different departments and faculties. Having smaller groups enabled everyone to have ‘their turn to talk’ and it allowed us the time to question what people were saying to us. It was certainly a case of less is more!

We started off the focus group with a short introduction about the role of the SALTs and a brief overview of our project. We then split the group into 4 and had 3 SALTs with each team; one to facilitate, one to ask questions and a support. In our team, we were fortunate to have representatives from arts and humanities, sciences and engineering and law, which was a good mix. It became obvious that there were huge variations in the types of feedback that the first years had been receiving and there was some clear dissatisfaction. Science faculty students complained about MOLE tests where they received a mark but no feedback. In contrast, Arts and Humanities students were struggling with not having received any feedback as their assessments were taking place in January and they had done no assessed work so far. It became increasingly obvious that the nature of feedback depended on the type of work which was being undertaken and this has led to significant differences between subject areas. This has huge implications for our project as a cross faculty initiative; specifically how can we design feedback tools that can be applied over such different subject areas which have such different types of assessment?

Level one students also talked about the role of their mentors/personal tutors as good sources of information on receiving feedback and where they go for help and guidance. This is a way of receiving help with feedback that we hadn’t previously considered. It was encouraging to see how important feedback was to the students who arrived for the focus groups and the depth of the data and discussions we had will be invaluable for our research. It was a good finale to such a busy month!

Stay tuned to our blog post over Christmas! We’ll have a post-up each week about what’s going on. The team is currently in the process of dealing with all our data and we will be writing a report over Christmas about our findings.