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University of South Australia Policy

UniSA policy related to the provision of feedback is in section 1.4 of the Assessment Policy and Procedures Manual.


What feedback works?

In their 2005 article, 'Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students' Learning', (PDF 316kb - opens in a new window. Download Adobe Acrobat) Graham Gibbs and Claire Simpson reviewed over 80 papers related to assessment to improve learning in higher education. They have crystallised this research into several conditions that need to be met to ensure that feedback on assessment results in improved student learning outcomes. These conditions are as follows:

It is also important to appreciate that feedback can mean different things to students and their teachers. When students respond to the evaluation item  'I have received feedback that is constructive and helpful' it is quite likely that they have variable understandings of the word feedback.


Techniques for giving feedback

The following techniques are currently being used for giving feedback in higher education institutions worldwide.

Assignment-related discussion forums

Not all feedback is summative (given at the end of an assignment task). Feedback can also be formative, giving students a measure of how they are progressing during the learning experience. One of the most successful ways staff at the University of South Australia have incorporated formative feedback into their courses is by running an learnonline discussion forum specifically related to an assessment task. Assignment-related discussion for a are a communication device whereby both the student and the teacher extract benefit from the activity. Staff have experienced significant reductions in workload and students have received better quality feedback and more uniform feedback.

To make assignment related discussion forum successful, academic staff need to:

Audience Response System (Clickers)

Through Security academic staff can use clickers to gain and give feedback from students using clickers and software called TurningPoint. More information on the design and practicalities are available.

Incorporating peer feedback

Students are able to receive more feedback if their peers are included. David Boud (ALTC fellow: Assessment) also argues, in his Assessment Futures web site, that peer assessment assists our students to develop skills that they need to be successful professionals.

Using online quizzes with embedded feedback

Online quizzes in learnonline have been utilised by staff to provide students with formative feedback on self-assessment. Formative quizzes are helpful for learners as it allows them to test their new understandings. Feedback in online quizzes can be general (for the whole question) or specific for the response the student has selected. It is also possible to include links within feedback to relevant course materials.

This example contextualises the questions within laboratory simulations. You are also able to access collated results from online quizzes. These graphical displays are useful in discussing with student groups the common misconceptions within a given quiz.

Telephone students

In the Open University, a striking improvement in student satisfaction and retention was achieved through telephoning students individually 2 weeks before their assignment was due to ask them how they were going with it and running through a work plan for their assignment.

Media-rich feedback

If the writing associated with providing effective feedback on student assignments is onerous, consider using audio feedback. This approach allows you to incorporate tone into your feedback as well as minimising the typing/writing workload. A voice recorder is available as an accessory in Microsoft Office, however some staff have utilised screen capture software to provide audio feedback with visual cues for web-based assignments.


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