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Providing rapid feedback for first years

Providing timely feedback to first years will make the transition to University much easier for many students. The first period of university teaching provides an ideal opportunity to instil good practice in students. However, rapid feedback to first years can be challenging because class sizes are often large. Feedback to first years may also need to be more detailed because of the relative inexperience of students at completing academic work at higher education level. 

Encouraging self-evaluation

The assessment process becomes much more transparent to students if they can gain a better idea Clock of what is expected of them. Using 'feed forward' can make this clear to students. Encouraging students to visit relevant websites and complete assignment 'checklists', prior to submitting their work, allows students to see how their efforts will contribute to intended learning outcomes and will help to make the subsequent feedback more effective. It will be particularly important to explain marking criteria, discuss how grades are awarded and if possible illustrate this by allowing students to see a range of students' work of varying standards. It is important to provide good feedback during the first period at university.1 This should include regular feedback, much of which will probably be formative. Regular feedback at this stage is likley to be most valued by the student.  

  • The LearnHigher website provides an excellent resource to support students’ learning development during their degree. Have a look at the LearnHigher written assignments checklist and the
  • The Personal Development Planning (PDP) website offers guidance to students about how they can evaluate and improve their skills whilst at University and afterwards. The PDP site contains specific information about iLearn, the personalised learning space on Blackboard which was created at Reading
  • The Skills Opportunities at Reading (SOAR) website provides hints and tips to help students complete their work and gain transferable skills that will help them after they have completed their degree.

Using feedback pro-forma

Feedback forms are ideal for giving indivdual feedback and can be extremely useful because you can tailor these to explicity reflect the assessment criteria.  This can help students engage with feedback because their performance on each aspect of an assignment or presentation is presented clearly and simply. Pro-forma can also help you avoid repeatedly writing the same thing. During the first year focusing on generic learning goals, such as using primary literature and writing structured essays will help students with assignments later on in their degree.

Giving verbal feedback

Verbal feedback can actively support students’ learning, although style and manner are particularly important in these instances. Class discussions that focus on the most common issues faced by first year students will help greatly, especially if these occur shortly after assignments have been submitted.

  • Race, P. and Brown, S. (2005) 500 Tips for tutors. 2nd edition. RoutledgeFalmer, London


1. Gibbs, G. & Habeshaw, T. (1989) Preparing to teach: An introduction to effective teaching in higher education. Technical & Educational Services Ltd. 

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