It’s the little things! Effective assessment feedback

The ability to provide students with timely and relevant feedback has always been something that technology seemed ideally placed to accomplish. Systems such as Turnitin and studentcentral (Blackboard) have been able to facilitate feedback for standard assessments for some time and the processes for these are well defined but for subjects where the final output isn’t an essay or test, digital options have been more limited. For example, art and design disciplines, where what is being assessed is the ongoing development of a creative process or idea. And where a critical part of the assessment process is student self evaluation. In these circumstances tutors have tended to continue to use paper based feedback forms. However, this doesn’t have to be the case!

 Staff from the Graphic Design and Illustration course worked with the learning technologies team to convert a cumbersome paper based feedback form that was administered via email into a streamlined online feedback mechanism. The aims of the project were to:

  • Enhance student engagement with the feedback process,
  • Reduce the time taken to deliver feedback to meet official deadlines,
  • Make student access to feedback more flexible and convenient.
  • Reduce the administrative burden of conducting the process,
  • And make the process paperless.

A workflow for the online student feedback process was designed with Phil Taylor (Graphic Design Course Leader) and Sarah Elliott (Senior Administrator). The final process allowed students to complete a short individual self evaluation of their work, by a certain time, that was then reviewed by the tutors, who posted back structured feedback and an overall mark for each of the students’ work. From the student perspective, all of this was accessed and controlled through studentcentral where links to the online form could be completed and tutor feedback received at set times. Staff filled in the evaluation form by completing a set of standard assessment criteria such as studio attendance, research skills and creative thinking.

The introduction of this mechanism proved highly successful and a number of benefits were observed.

  • The turnaround time for the delivery of feedback to students was reduced to meet official University timescales.
  • Student participation and completion rates increased significantly.
  • Students reported they were more easily able to complete the self evaluation form and find their feedback from tutors. The transition to online feedback was well received.
  • Tutors were able to save time by completing the online feedback form while viewing students’ work in the studios, using the wireless network.
  • The majority of the organisational and administrative elements of the process were automated, saving the course administrator significant time.

Looking back at this project, now in it’s second year of delivery, reminded me how a simple technology based intervention (the creation of a web based feedback form) at course level can make a positive impact on students and staff; improving engagement in the feedback cycle and ultimately the student experience. Some times it’s the little things that make a difference!


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