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Students baffled by feedback

Monday 18 May 2009 Struggling With Study

Findings from the NUS Student Experience Report 2008 reveal students are dissatisfied with the amount and the quality of feedback they receive for their work.

Feedback was found to be frequently inadequate, and, in some cases, to be hindering learning altogether. This reinforces similar results from every National Student Survey that has taken place since it was introduced in 2005.

The NUS Report, which surveyed more than 3,000 students, showed that only a quarter were given verbal feedback, despite three quarters stating this as their preferred method of receiving the information. A quarter of students were also left waiting five weeks or more to get any feedback.

A right to feedback

Aaron Porter Vice President Higher Education says students deserve better.

"The evidence is still quite clear, that on the whole students are quite dissatisfied with the feedback they receive. Feedback is an integral part of the learning experience, and as such students are quite right to demand a better standard of feedback."

Feedback on assessment plays a crucial role in a student’s learning, self-esteem and future development, but the current system is letting students down. NUS has launched the Great Feedback Amnesty, which includes a guide to giving feedback, in order to address the concerns students have about the feedback they receive.

Feedback Amnesty 

"By launching our Great Feedback Amnesty, we aim to make an issue out of the standard of feedback currently provided to students, but with a focus on improving standards and the implementation of our 10 Principles of Good Feedback," explains Aaron.

Some institutions have already taken on board NUS’ recommendations. At Northumbria, for example, their National Student Survey rating for assessment and feedback has risen by nine per cent. This was a result of staff training on how to provide feedback that students can make better use of.

At Heriot-Watt, the Students’ Association used the result of the National Student Survey to highlight poor satisfaction with feedback among students. They ran a campaign which saw students returning exam scripts to lecturers with stickers on asking for feedback to be provided. The University has since agreed to return exam scripts with feedback and is using a feedback policy composed by the Union. This campaign won Campaign of the Year in last year’s NUS Awards.

What to do if you are unhappy with your feedback

  • Speak to your course rep about the issue - you may not be alone in your dissatisfaction and this could be a much wider issue amongst your student body. They will be able to represent your opinions at an institutional level to tutors and course planners, and also feedback your experiences back to your students’ union;
  • You should also report your experiences in any feedback mechanisms you have available, such as the National Student Survey or module evaluation forms.

The Ten Principles to Giving Good Feedback