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Appendix 2: Guidance to support the implementation of the Policy on Feedback to Students

Communicating the feedback process

It is important to manage student expectations with regard to feedback.  There are three main points that should be communicated to students by programme and unit leaders:

  • What form/s feedback will take on that specific unit/programme.
  • The timescale for the return of feedback on submitted work and/or the process by which continuous feedback will be delivered (for example, on technical skills in laboratories).
  • How the feedback ought to be used by the recipient.

As a fundamental part of the learning experience for students, it is essential that the process of providing feedback is monitored for both effectiveness and overall quality.  Feedback based on work electronically submitted and returned by Blackboard can be monitored easily, but this will only account for a portion of all feedback.

Particular care needs to be taken in programmes such as Joint Honours programmes, where units are drawn from multiple disciplines/Schools or Faculties.  A common concern voiced by students on such programmes is the perception that they are treated differently by different parts of their programme.  Therefore the effective use of vertical and horizontal curriculum planning is particularly important to ensure that students understand how the different elements of the programme fit together, to avoid assessment clashes, and to make sure that the assigned academic adviser is able to effectively advise students on their academic development and attainment in all components of the programme.

Grading as a component of feedback

The provision of a grade is important for students.  It helps them to position themselves within their cohort and to plan their academic development with reference to attainment in particular modes of assessment and to judge their general progress.  However any grades provided must be meaningful to the student and standards of grading should be consistently applied across a programme of study.  The consistent use of grading descriptors is strongly encouraged.  Feedback on assessments, whether formative or summative, should indicate areas for improvement that relate to the grade given so that students can make use of the feedback to improve their attainment level in other units.

Timescales for providing feedback

The timing of feedback must be such that the feedback can be used by the student to respond and improve performance in a unit and throughout their programme.  One of the key themes raised by students when asked about the quality of their feedback is that they would like feedback on coursework to be returned in a timeframe that allows them to better prepare for further assessment.  Schools should give consideration to submission dates for coursework to ensure that where appropriate the schedule for submission and feedback fits with the relevant dates for future assessment.

It should be accepted that appropriate timing for feedback depends on the nature of the unit.  The following points may be useful when considering when feedback would be most appropriately delivered:

  • If feedback will be helpful in further assessed work set within the timeframe of the unit then clearly feedback will need to be delivered earlier.
  • If feedback will be most useful to inform performance in end of unit examinations that take place a number of weeks after teaching has ended, then it maybe more appropriate to collect work for feedback nearer the end of the unit.
  • Nothing in this policy prohibits multiple feedback points within a unit.  However, care should be taken to ensure a balance between the time needed to deliver the unit and students' ability to assimilate knowledge, against the time needed to undertake the work to be submitted for feedback.

Delivery of feedback to students

It is crucial for students that the feedback they receive is meaningful and useful. Therefore any comments made should be clear, directly related to areas of assessed performance, and sufficiently detailed to be useful for the student in their personal and academic planning.  Where brief comments such as "good" or "satisfactory" are used they should be used consistently across the programme and if possible the discipline area or School.  It may be appropriate to align this type of comment to grading descriptors.  Students should be given advice on how to interpret feedback comments and be able to ask questions if the feedback given is not clear to them.

Each student must feel that appropriate consideration has been given to their piece of work and their personal development as a learner.   Students are very clear that feedback must be personal to them.  Generic feedback is only acceptable as additional feedback, and substantive feedback must be given to each and every student in a unit.   

It is recommended that a common programme-based or School-based feedback process is followed by each unit on a programme.  It is important to recognise that such processes will vary across levels of a programme as, for example, the feedback needs of students in Year 1 of an undergraduate programme are very different from the needs of students in the final year.  However, within a given programme level, consistency of feedback must be maintained.

Feedback on examinations

There is still a lot that students can reflect upon about their performance in end of unit examinations in order to improve their results for future units, such as learning from their examination performance therefore feedback on this type of assessment is still important even though it tends to take place at the end of a unit of study.    

Examiners will be aware that comments they write on scripts may be viewed by students and should therefore ensure that such comments are provided in the same manner as comments on course work and other related material.  Such comments should be made to provide constructive criticism where appropriate, to provide assistance to the external examining process, and, where appropriate, internal moderation of the marking process.