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Feedback is the subject of much research and discussion in Higher Education. Nationally the focus has intensified due to reports of low levels of student satisfaction with the feedback process e.g. the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE). The focus of this report is an examination of effective feedback in undergraduate education. The importance of effective feedback (particularly for those beginning their third level education) is reflected in a project funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, called the Y1Feedback project. This is aimed at increasing the quality of the third level experience and has gained a national and international profile. The provision of feedback to students is particularly worthwhile, and it has been demonstrated that the “provision of timely and useful feedback has significant potential to support and improve student learning (Hounsell, 2003, Hattie & Timperley 2007, Sadler 2010, Carless et al. 2011, Merry et al. 2013)” (Y1Feedback, 2016 p.6).
The challenges with third level feedback have been well documented and fall into two broad categories, those which prevent students from engaging meaningfully with feedback (Nash & Winstone, 2017) and those which prevent educators from delivering effective feedback. These include student numbers, workload, confidence in technology, timing, format, regularity, and access to feedback (Y1Feedback, 2016). Feedback is often offered to students in a linear manner from educator to student, resulting in students having limited responsibility in the process. Many students do not know how to engage with the feedback process. Introducing the approach of dialogic feedback means that teachers are no longer the sole source of feedback, and peer and self-critical feedback should build skills towards self-regulation of learning (Y1Feedback, 2016, p.18). Students may not pay attention to feedback comments because they cannot make sense of them (Duncan, 2007), and Spiller (2009) emphasises that students often do not understand the feedback process.
This report will outline the key components of an effective feedback process and mechanisms which can be considered in implementing effective feedback. The intention is to offer a simplified, student-centred approach to assist educators when designing or revising feedback practices.
Gibbons, S., McCarthy, J., McEvoy, P., Mordaunt, P. (2018) Components of, and Approaches to, Effective Feedback. Practitioner Research Project, DIT, 2018.