Bringing feedback to the forefront

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Feedback is a key area of student concern and and important area across the HE sector. However, marking work and giving individual comments and feedback to students is time- and energy-sapping for lecturers, so how can we rethink marking and feedback to make it work better for students? Writing the Guardian, Andrew Tharby, and English teacher, suggests that rather than ignoring feedback, it be brough to the forefront of classroom activity, and could quite easily be incorporated into seminars.

The following ideas present ways of adding feedback opportunities to classes, in ways that are easily recognisable to students.

The five-minute flick

This is one of my favourite strategies. I check through a cross-section of books – five or six – to assess how students across a range of abilities performed in the previous lesson. If they have produced a piece of writing, I will begin the next class by showing an example from one student – typed up or photographed – and we critique it together. I guide the class through the editing process, staying focused on common misconceptions and weaknesses, so that we model an improvement together. Individuals then return to their own work and edit independently with this example in mind.

Gallery critique

In my experience, peer-assessment is fraught with problems; however well I train a class to do it proficiently, each student is at the mercy of the accuracy and commitment of the student next to them. Gallery critique draws on ideas from Ron Berger’s book, An Ethic of Excellence, and involves students moving around the classroom critiquing one another’s work using Berger’s “kind, specific, helpful” mantra, along with a plentiful supply of post-it notes. Not only do students receive detailed feedback from a number of peers, they also learn from reading each other’s work. I have written in depth about the strategy here.

Live marking

This also has huge potential. As the students are working, I call them up one-by-one to my desk. We discuss their work and l feedback both verbally and with symbols. If you are required to demonstrate evidence of marking, a verbal feedback stamp can be very useful. I find this technique works best if the class is undertaking an extended written piece. I can see a whole class over two lessons and can differentiate the timing of my feedback, as some students need to be left to work independently for longer and others need to be steered on track much earlier. The strategy can be manipulated in a variety of ways depending on the subject and task.

The original article can be accessed on the Guardian website.

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