Assessment in Higher Education Online 2014

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Topic 5: What is feedback for?


uncollected_feedback-300x225Question: What is feedback for?

Most teachers in Higher Education spend hours producing it. Many teachers in HE bemoan the lack of attention students give to it. Even in the digital age, the image to the left of a pile of marked but uncollected assignments will be familiar to many. Why is there an apparent disconnect between the value tutors think it has, and the value that students apparently give it? To answer that, we may need to address a more fundamental question: what’s it for?

Task: Analysing your written feedback

Guest activity from Gwyneth Hughes and Holly Smith, Institute of Education, London  For this activity you need a sample or two of your written feedback. This can be feedback written on or in the margins of an assignment, or feedback written on a feedback form as long as it consists of sentences of commentary and not only identification of errors. We will use a feedback analysis tool that was developed and tested as part of a funded project Assessment Careers. Complete the following:

1) Watch the video which explains the aims of the project and the reasons for developing this tool.

The tool categorises feedback into Praise, ipsative feedback, critique, advice and requests for clarification or questions.

2) Print a copy of the tool (Word) or complete the tool electronically and apply it to your sample(s) of feedback. There are some instructions for how to use the tool here (PDF).


3) Identify the two most dominant categories in your feedback profile and send these in a message to the feedback practice discussion area. Also note any areas that are under-represented. Look at the messages from others and see if there are any similarities or differences. The team will also comment on these responses and report some research findings from the project.

4) Consider how you might shift your feedback practice to produce a profile that is appropriate for your students. Send a message to the forum with your suggestions and respond to the suggestions of others. You might also consult this feedback guide from Brown and Glover, 2006. What, if any, are the limitations of the Assessment Careers profiling tool?


Strongly recommended:

Race, P. (2001). “Using Feedback to help students to learn.” 2010, from

Boud, D. and Molloy, E., Eds. (2012). Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well, Routledge.

Chanock, K. (2000). “Comments on Essays: do students understand what tutors write?” Teaching in Higher Education 5(1): 95-105.

Nicol, D. and Macfarlane, D., Debra (2006). “Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice.” Studies in Higher Education 31(2): 199-218.

Shields, S. (2015). “‘My work is bleeding’: exploring students’ emotional responses to first-year assignment feedback.” Teaching in Higher Education 20(6): 614-624.

Will be very useful for assignments

MMU Feedback procedures

MMU Learning Innovations case studies on audio feedback.

MMU CELT feedback resource, including Good Practice videos

Carless, D., et al. (2011). “Developing sustainable feedback practices.” Studies in Higher Education 36(4): 395 – 407.

Jones, O. and Gorra, A. (2013). “Assessment feedback only on demand: Supporting the few not supplying the many.” Active Learning in Higher Education 14(2): 149-161.

Lunt, T. and Curran, J. (2009). “˜Are you listening please?” The advantages of electronic audio feedback compared to written feedback.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 35(7): 759-769.

Poulos, A. and Mahony, M. J. (2008). “Effectiveness of feedback: the students’ perspective.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 33(2): 143 – 154.

Varlander, S. (2008). “The role of students’ emotions in formal feedback situations.” Teaching in Higher Education 13(2): 145 – 156.

Young, P. (2000). “‘I Might as Well Give Up’: self-esteem and mature students’ feelings about feedback on assignments.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 24(3): 409-418.



  1. […] part of the Assessment in HE unit which is running online, participants have been asked to audit their own feedback. You can find out more about what this involves […]

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