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Why Focus on Feedback?

The importance of assessment and feedback to the learning process is well known (Sadler, 19831; Biggs, 2003a2,b3; Gibbs & Simpson, 20044; Juwah et al., 20045). High quality and timely feedback can engage and motivate students and help them improve performance in subsequent assignments ('feed forward'). However, providing this type of feedback and maximising student engagement with it can be a real challenge. For staff, providing feedback can sometimes be very time consuming, repetitive and inefficient. From the student perspective, feedback may be provided in a manner which is deemed to be too late to useful, sometimes unhelpful and inconsistent (Glover & Brown, 20066). The National Student Surveys have provided a public forum for students' concerns about feedback and these data have consistently scored the 'assessment and feedback' category below all other categories since the surveys were first launched in 2005. The University of Reading has invested significant resources into improving feedback provision; for example see the Engage in feedback website. It is therefore timely to focus on evaluating feedback proviosn from both student and staff perspectives.

Staff and student views on feedback commonly include:

1Sadler, D.R., (1983). Evaluation and the improvement of academic learning. Journal of Higher Education, 54, 60-79

2Biggs, J.B. (2003a). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does. Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press, Maidenhead.

3Biggs, J.B. (2003b). Aligning Teaching and Assessment to Curriculum Objectives, (Imaginative Curriculum Project, LTSN Generic Centre)

4Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004). Conditions under which assessment supports students' learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31

5Juwah, D., Macfarlane-Dick, B., Matthew, D., Nicol, D. & Smith, B. (2004). Enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback. York: The Higher Education Academy.

6Glover C. & Brown, E. (2006). Written Feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective?, Bioscience Education E-journal