Tools For Tutors: Practical Strategies for Working with Feedback

In our previous article, we offered advice on how to make the most of the feedback we receive from others. Here, the focus is on providing a practical guide to successful feedback practices for academic staff members who also have teaching responsibilities.

How do you know your teaching is effective?

There are many ways in which you can assess how effective your teaching methods are: your students not dozing off in your tutorials and good essay marks are some of them. But is it enough for you to know you have made their learning experiences stick?

Why do you need feedback from students and how can you get it?

Most higher-education institutions have formal processes in which they collect student feedback and analyse it. This often happens at the end of a course, programme or academic year, and means that students complete surveys and questionnaires that capture their experience. However, there is no need to wait until the end of your course to assess how the students have responded to your teaching.

Here are some tried and tested ideas we have put together so that you can get some meaningful feedback from your students:

Get creative – as a quick icebreaker, ask your students to list the most interesting ideas/concepts from the previous sessions – they can record these on a flip chart and present back to the group. Alternatively, they can draw a mind map or you can go round the room asking for a summary from each individual (just watch your time!).

Over to them – this is another favourite! Split your students into smaller groups and ask them to teach back various concepts/ideas you have been covering with them. That way you will see whether they have understood various concepts correctly and you can learn something from them.

Surveys – you can run more formal and informal surveys to get more detailed feedback on your teaching methods. Your institution may govern this. However, if you prefer more regular feedback from your students why not split a flip chart paper into these categories (use as many as you want)and ask your students to add comments: What went well today? What could I improve on? What would you like to see more of in my tutorials? What would you like me to do less of?

One-minute lectures – at the end of your tutorial/lecture ask your students to spend one minute writing down their personal and anonymous answers to one or two questions, such as:

– What was least clear in this session?
– What was the main point of today’s tutorial?
– What are the most important questions remaining unanswered for you?

Collect the scraps of paper with the responses and respond to them at the start of your next session. It is an easy and quick way to get insight into what has worked/ is still unclear.

Make your feedback count – help your students learn from your feedback

This is about the feedback students receive after an assessment. It is important to make it meaningful and get it right so that they can really benefit from the time you have put into assessing their work. It is not just about giving marks, but also supporting your students’ academic journey. Boud and Molloy (2013) suggest that feedback used solely by teachers as part of the assessment process is not enough anymore. With students becoming more engaged in co-creating their learning, the shift is towards more creative and participative ways of providing feedback.

Here are a few ideas from The Higher Education Academy to get you started:

Become a ‘feedback SNOB’ – encourage your students to reflect on feedback in a more productive way:

o   Strengths – what they do well and should continue doing
o   Needs – what they need to improve on before the next assessment
o   Opportunities – things they missed/got wrong and should pay more attention to next time
o   Barriers – what could prevent them from improving

 Ask your students to self-assess their work and then compare with your mark – this can be useful if you want them to understand the marking criteria. You can also facilitate peer-led assessments and feedback to offer your students as much opportunity as possible to practice both giving and receiving feedback.

Get them to act on your feedback – encourage your students to keep self-reflective logs of the feedback they have been receiving. They could use simple headings such us: What I Did Well, What I Need to Improve, Next Steps

Comments first, marks second – often students are so blinded by the marks that they ignore or forget to engage with and reflect on the attached feedback comments. Can you try to give them feedback first and encourage self-reflection to promote a growth mindset before disclosing the mark?

Reflecting on what one really hopes to achieve with feedback is an important part of a teaching practice. Think about what it means to you to be part of your students’ academic experience. What can you do to make sure they leave the university as more reflective and successful learners?

The best thing about the strategies listed above is that they are easy to adapt to your needs. Try them out and let us know how you get on!

Read this:
Feedback toolkit
Top tips for providing students with meaningful feedback
• More feedback tips here and here

Watch this:
What students say about feedback 


David Boud & Elizabeth Molloy (2013) Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38:6, 698-712, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2012.691462



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