Are you currently marking assessments? 5 points to consider when writing feedback to students.

In an article published last week, Liz Austen and Cathy Malone from Sheffield Hallam University (STEER and LEAD) outline an analysis of the value students place in different types of written feedback.  A series of focus groups were coordinated around an activity which allowed students to evaluate and discuss 95 pieces of individually written feedback.  Texts were scored to create collections of high and low ranking feedback. This analysis was supported by student annotations and thematic coding of the verbal discussions which took place. The authors found that students highly value the following characteristics in written feedback:

Specific Praise – Clarity and Completeness – Forward Orientation – Interpersonal Positioning – Clear and Error Free Text

The authors note that whilst the student sample recognised the implications of a heavy marking load, they also appealed for feedback in which they could see themselves and their work, which helped them develop, and that didn’t impact negatively on their sense of worth. The article brings together the analysis to conclude that:

These findings also resonate with the Assessment for Social Justice literature (McArthur, 2016) in that assessments (and feedback practices) should incorporate concepts such as fairness, care, respect, esteem and worth.”

The primary concern for the authors is the construction of valued feedback and a positive learning experience for students. For further incentives, consider that there is some alignment between these findings and the framing of the National Student Survey questions 8, 9 and 11 on Assessment and Feedback.

The publication also helpfully highlights one specific feedback format which was consistently scored highly by the student sample and captured all highly valued characteristics of written feedback.  If colleagues are persevering with written feedback, this might be of use.