High quality feedback can have a powerful influence on student learning (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). To better harness this power in teaching and assessment, it is useful to understand the beliefs and expectations that students bring to feedback encounters, both in general and in particular contexts. This is the focus of a CSU-wide research project that was the basis for two sessions facilitated by Dr James Deehan and Paul Parker at the FOAE Learning and Teaching Symposium.
The project, Investigating students’ feedback beliefs and perceptions of feedback value at a regional Australian university (H18624), has two main phases. For Phase 1, students from all faculties have been invited to participate in a survey and/or interview. Data collected here will establish a baseline for contextual work in Phase 2, which involves case studies on student choice and reception of different feedback modes (text, audio, video) and features of feedback-rich learning environments.
Session 1 – Feedback: What do our students believe and value? – at the Symposium was structured around the conceptual framework underpinning the survey instrument, with participants invited to share views on what their students believe and value about feedback, the contributing factors and implications for teaching. Figure 1 shows how a group of 10 teaching academics from FOAE ranked five key dimensions of feedback in order of importance to students. They felt students mainly wanted feedback to be accessible, conscious of emotional impact and to enable improvement.
Session 2 – Case study of subject design and delivery for sustainable dialogic feedback – focused on the design and delivery features of a subject in teacher education. EMS207 Science and Technology Curriculum was shown to integrate several dialogic strategies associated in leading literature with a ‘sustainable’ approach to feedback, which focuses on building students’ broader capacity for self-regulated learning and evaluative judgement. Participants shared similar strategies and discussion highlighted key challenges, such as the disruption to feedback continuity that can occur with external markers. They also expressed interest in technology-enhanced feedback, effective use of exemplars, unpacking rubrics and design for cooperative learning.
The level of engagement with the project (so far over 700 standard survey submissions, 60 follow up open-item survey submissions and 25 phone interviews) suggests students place a high value on feedback and desire a voice in its quality. Meeting their needs, however, may entail a shift in how we think about and approach feedback. While dialogic and rich-media strategies can potentially strengthen the power of feedback for students, they cannot be simply bolted on. As recent literature suggests, the complexities at play necessitate approaching feedback provision as a design problem (cf. Boud & Molloy, 2013; Dawson et al., 2018; Henderson, Phillips & Ryab, 2018; Winstone & Carless, 2020). Essentially, sessions such as ours cannot provide all the answers; it is imperative that academics systematically explore opportunities for feedback improvement as part of regular teaching practice.