Feedback on Assessment

This section provides practical advice to assist you in identifying and delivering a range of feedback.

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Feedback on assessment
Online feedback will be provided for all levels of study from 2017/18. This includes all coursework irrespective of which method of submission/presentation has been used.

An electronic record of feedback provides improved clarity, addressing legibility of handwritten feedback. Consistency as well as the security and convenience of the medium also provide benefits to students in addition to having access to all feedback for a course online and in one place.

An electronic record of feedback should be uploaded to Blackboard Grade Centre. Various methods and tools can be used to facilitate electronic feedback as shown on the electronic feedback guidance. This electronic feedback may be supplemented by face-to-face meetings with students and return of annotated scripts where appropriate to the discipline.

In order to comply with the University’s Threshold Standards for Supporting Learning with Technology, you must articulate how, when and in what format students can expect to receive feedback on their work. The Blackboard Calendar should be used to publish feedback return dates to students. Follow the link to further guidance about adding a feedback return date to the Blackboard Calendar.

A video overview for staff of the Blackboard notification tools, including using the calendar to publish feedback return dates is also available. View on Medail and YouTube.

Online feedback methods – including the use of electronic feedback, media and rubrics 

Online feedback is the process of returning feedback to students on their work in electronic format online. It is normally coupled with the process of online submission, although feedback can be given online regardless of the format of the original submission. It requires some form of electronic or onscreen marking that allows tutors to use a variety of tools and techniques to provide comprehensive and faster feedback to students. It is designed to address student, staff and institutional requirements for efficiencies in providing timely and engaging feedback.

online feedback

 

At Sheffield Hallam, the use of the Grade Centre within the Blackboard VLE is the recommended way for returning feedback to students online. In addition to returning feedback directly and efficiently to students, further benefits afforded include:

  • Enabling students to easily track progress and see how performance on different assessment tasks builds to an overall profile for each of their modules.
  • Presenting marks and feedback alongside learning materials with reference made directly back to materials to review.

Examples of electronic feedback that can be produced and return to students online via the Blackboard Grade Centre might include one or more of the following:

  • Typed comments and annotations e.g. using Commenting, Track Changes or AutoText tools in Microsoft Word, or the new Inline Grading tool in Blackboard, Box View feedback icon which enables feedback to be positioned ‘in context’ against specific points in the students’ original work. This would require students to submit their work in an electronic format. Tablet devices, iPads and other portable devices can support the annotation and positioning of feedback against specific points in the students’ original work.
  • Speech recognition software can be used to generate typed comments and annotations either in the students’ original work or as a separate feedback document. By typing ‘Speech Recognition’ into the Start Menu, this software can be accessed on every University managed desktop pc. Professor Colin Beard has produced a video case study showing how he uses Speech Recognition software for creating feedback.
  • Marking grids and feedback rubrics – these are systematic methods to produce individual feedback documents that map assessment criteria against comments drawn from pre-defined statement banks, e.g. often designed using an Excel spreadsheet. In Blackboard, Feedback Rubrics can be used to engage students with assessment criteria at the point of creating or completing their work (e.g. when preparing to submit work online, or contributing to a discussion forum, blog or wiki), and used to provide individual feedback to students based on their performance against each criterion. Entirely customisable, Feedback Rubrics enable pre-defined feedback comments to be accompanied by individual comments and a personalised summary. Although criteria weights and mark breakdowns can be applied, they are most effective in demonstrating how students have achieved each assessment criterion, rather than to automate the calculation of the student’s overall mark. It is important to note that when completing feedback rubrics you will need to be connected to the internet at all times. Where marking grids and feedback rubrics are not the sole format of feedback provided, care should be taken to ensure that the feedback provided on these forms complement, and do not contradict any comments annotated on the students’ original work for instance.
  • Audio feedback – using a variety of portable recording devices and an array of easy-to-use software, markers can verbally record and provide students with audio commentary of their work. Audio feedback can be provided on any assignment or assessment task, and it is claimed that more detailed, in-depth and personal feedback can be provided in this way. However it can separate feedback from the task due to the lack of annotations, and therefore care should be taken to ensure comments are referred back to specific points in the students’ work, as well as clarity of voice and length of recording. Audio feedback is a great way for students to record formative discussions about their work (e.g. in lab sessions) that might be later forgotten. Students may need guidance in accessing and storing this type of feedback.
  • Screencast feedback – where work has been submitted in an electronic format, screencast software can be used to highlight specific points or demonstrate specific actions in the student’s original work while providing detailed audio commentary and feedback. When returned, students can see the process that the marker went through in reviewing and discussing their work. John Metcalf has provided a couple of examples of screencast feedback that he has produced for student presentations – screencast 1, screencast 2.
  • Video feedback – portable video recording devices can be positioned in such a way to capture the marker highlighting specific points or demonstrate specific actions in the student’s original work while providing detailed audio commentary and feedback. When returned, students can see the process that the marker went through in reviewing and discussing their work. Like with audio feedback, video feedback is a useful way of recording formative discussions about their work (e.g. in lab sessions or in practice) that might be later forgotten, or recording students undertaking summative tasks such as presentations, creative or visual tasks that could be used to support the feedback given.

Threshold Standards relating to assessment and feedback Threshold Standards

Staff – All Blackboard module sites remain active while there are students enrolled on the site. Once there are no students enrolled on the module site, the site is automatically archived for a minimum period of 24 months and then manually deleted. During that time a ticket can be submitted via IT Help for the module site to be made available.

Students – Previously students were unenrolled from their Blackboard module sites when they were marked as having completed their course in SITS. As a consequence, students could not access feedback and learning materials after this point, in some cases giving them a small window to access their feedback. This has now been changed so that students retain access to their Blackboard module sites for approximately three months after they are marked as completed, in line with their University IT access.

Recording electronic feedback for non-electronic assessment
The return of assignment grades and feedback through Blackboard is valued by students as it gathers this important information into a single, known place. As more written assignments are being created and submitted electronically, the benefits of an electronic process for ‘traditional’ assignments is increasingly clear. However, in many disciplines non-written assignments are a major component of the assessment schedule for students. In addition, technology and cultural changes have encouraged many academics to move away from written essay-type assignments and instead use assessments that encourage student creativity, are more constructively aligned to the module learning outcomes and provide opportunities for the development of skills that will be useful after graduation. Even though these types of assessment have not been submitted electronically, there are still benefits to returning some feedback electronically as an adjunct to other methods.

Common non-electronic assignment submissions

The following are examples of common non-electronically submitted assignments at SHU and suggestions on ways that the feedback could be captured for electronic return to the students.

Observation / Demonstration

Assessed observations and demonstrations are widely used in situations where the students are required to have learned a specific procedure. Occasionally, students are required to submit a recording of themselves demonstrating the procedure, but usually this type of assessment is conducted more like a presentation or performance – with the assessor watching the student while they complete the procedure.

Potential electronic recording methods

Rubrics; electronic documents; audio; video

Presentations/Performances

Presentations are an increasingly common assessment method and they can provide an opportunity for students to develop skills, confidence and experience in an activity that they may be required to undertake during their career. Similarly, some disciplines use ‘performances’, including role-play, as an assessment method. In both cases, a large portion of the marking process typically takes place during the activity and feedback is often given directly afterwards.

Potential electronic recording methods

Rubrics; electronic documents; audio; video; photos

Physical Artifacts, e.g. Artwork, Models, Handwritten Exercises, Prototypes, etc

In a wide range of disciplines, students are assessed on their production of a physical object or set of objects. Although in some cases there may be related documents that could be submitted electronically (such as design documentation), generally assessment focuses on the physical artifact. While in some cases there may be a presentation element to the assessment, typically the student will submit the work and the assessor will mark and produce feedback on it at a later point in time.

Potential electronic recording methods

Rubrics; electronic documents; Video; Audio; Photos; Digitised Handwritten Feedback

Viva

Typically, a viva will be a combination of a presentation/demonstration with a discussion and oral feedback. While most frequently used for postgraduate assessment, they are increasingly being used with undergraduate, especially dissertations, as they provide a way to explore a student’s understanding through probing questions and so reduce the potential for plagiarism.

Potential electronic recording methods

Rubrics; electronic documents; audio

Tools and Methods for Recording Feedback

Audio Recordings

A simple audio recording device, such as a smartphone or low cost voice recorder, can be used to capture usable spoken feedback in most environments and are particularly useful when producing feedback away from a computer. However, recordings can also be created at your desk using a microphone (typically part of a headset) and the Audacity software installed on all SHU PCs (and freely available for other PCs from audacity. Once an audio recording is complete, it can be treated as any other file and so can be uploaded to Blackboard in a common area for all students or attached as feedback to a grade in the Grade Centre.

Digitised Written Feedback

There are situations where paper is the most suitable medium for the students to submit their work, such as handwritten mathematical solutions, or the most appropriate way to record feedback, such as when there is a requirement to complete a standard printed proforma or rubric. However, it may still be possible to return this feedback to the students electronically. A growing proportion of the photocopiers around the institution are capable of scanning multiple sheets in a batch and emailing the results back to the user as images or PDF files, which could then be returned to the students via Blackboard. Alternatively, it may be sufficient to photograph the written feedback using a smartphone or camera and then upload the resulting image to Blackboard.

Electronic documents

In most situations where the assignment requires students to produce something other than a written document, it is still normally possible to create feedback as an electronic document, such as a word-processed document, or typed directly into Blackboard. This can then be returned to the student through Blackboard in the same way as when the student submits electronically.

Photos & Screenshots

Photographs are an extremely effective way to provide feedback on physical artifacts as they offer the ability to show the specific details that are being commented upon. Similarly, screenshots offer the same capability for digital artifacts, such as website and poster designs or videos. Photos can be taken with a smartphone or dedicated camera and, like screenshots, can be readily annotated in a simple graphics package to further highlight points of interest.

Rubrics (Blackboard)

Blackboard provides the facility to use electronic rubrics for marking and feedback. The rubrics allow markers to select the relevant point on a scale for different aspects of the assignment submission. In addition, these scales can optionally be used to generate the mark for the piece of work. Specific feedback can be added to each selected scale in order to provide a more detailed explanation of the reason for the selected point or how the student could have moved up to the next point.

It is generally considered good practice when using rubrics to make them available to students when they are working on their submissions. This is because it provides additional information about the assessment that will help them ensure that they have understood the requirements.

Screencasts

A screencast is a narrated video of what is being viewed on a computer screen. While they are intended for creating video demonstrations of software, they also allow a ‘talkthrough’ of an assignment submission shown on screen, including electronic documents, images, etc. Online tools, such as screencast-o-matic, offer an easy way to create short screencasts that can be uploaded and shared with students via Blackboard.

Video Recordings

In addition to audio recording facilities, smartphones and tablets can also produce usable video in most situations – though in some cases specialist equipment may be more suitable. Video recorded with these devices is well suited to the creation of a ‘talkthrough’ of a physical artifact, as it allows attention to be drawn to specific elements of the work without the need to describe them verbally. As with audio feedback, the recordings can be uploaded to Blackboard for the student to access.

Examples of practice

Audio recordings

Providing Individual Audio Feedback – Pat Day & Elaine Stringer

Feeding forward using audio feedback – Phil Askham

Recording individual audio feedback for students – Rachel Bower

Creating and distributing audio feedback – Anne Nortcliffe

Rubrics

Generating consistent feedback using Excel spreadsheets – Alison Purvis

Consistent and fast feedback through spreadsheets – Lucian Tipi

Further guidance on the new receipting functionality for non-electronic assessment can be found in Theme 4 – Submitting / SittingSubmission of Work

Feedback on exams
Rationale

Research was undertaken during academic year 14/15 to ascertain the internal view on exam feedback together with the wider student view and practice from the NUS and the HE sector.

The NUS and SHU students regard exam feedback as vital, as exams can make up a high proportion of student assessment. 88% of the students who receive either no feedback or written grades only, said they would like more feedback (NUS/HSBC 2010/11). Students are requesting a range of feedback options including completed assessment grids and one to one meetings on request.

Within the HE sector there are a range of exam feedback practices including generic feedback to class, post-exam open days and individual feedback by the module leader on request.

Feedback on Exams – Standard Agreed Approach

The University wishes to ensure that students receive adequate preparation for examinations including resits and that the policy of feedback on exams across the University is clarified as follows:

Academic Year 15/16

The minimum expectation for exam feedback is:

To provide one-to-one examination feedback on request by the student

Module Leaders are responsible for facilitating one-to-one feedback to students on their request

Students are responsible for contacting their Module Leader to request exam feedback (normally within 3 months of sitting the exam).  In exceptional cases or where necessary e.g. whole year re-assessment, feedback could be given up to a year of the exam taking place.

Academic Year 16/17

The minimum expectation for exam feedback is:

To provide one-to-one examination feedback on request by the student

In addition to the above, module/course teams will also provide one additional type of examination feedback, as appropriate, to fit with teaching practice. This may be one of the following:

  • electronic generic feedback (via VLE) to a cohort on strengths and weakness of individual questions or the exam in general
  • drop-in post exam session for feed-forward at the end of a semester or at the start of next semester
  • individual electronic feedback – assessment grid for all students
  • individual electronic feedback – written to all students
  • model answers, where applicable/appropriate

Examination marks are normally given within 3 working weeks (excluding student vacation periods, i.e. Christmas, Easter and summer breaks).

Provisional examination marks should be included in Blackboard’s grade centre and passed to Student Administration to be processed in SITS and ratified through the assessment boards. SITS (via My Student Record) is the only place for students to access their full mark profile across all modules studied. These marks remain provisional until the assessment boards have taken place and the marks are confirmed.

Exam scripts cannot be retained by students, but the content of the script and tutor feedback comments can be used to facilitate feedback.

For final year students in their final semester, only one-to-one feedback will be given on request, with priority being given to those students undertaking resits.

Turnaround time for feedback

Feedback Timeframe – Coursework

Feedback to students is normally given within 3 working weeks of the coursework submission deadline (excluding student vacation periods, i.e. Christmas, Easter and summer breaks). The University recognises that there are exceptional situations in which the 3 week turnaround is not possible due to externally imposed constraints. Exceptions may be made through discussion with Faculty Assistant Deans for Academic Development.

Feedback to students should be given in time to inform subsequent and related coursework and examination assessments.

Please see the ‘Resources’ section for ‘Achieving the 3 week turnaround’ document for further information on addressing the challenges, emerging good practice and feedback strategies, to respond to the University’s expectations to turnaround feedback on assessment within three weeks.

Feedback Timeframe – Examinations

Feedback to students should be given in time to inform subsequent and related coursework and examination assessments.

Actively engaging students in the feedback process
Getting students prepared for receiving feedback is crucial to help students engage with it and understand how feedback can help them with their future assignments.

The Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange (ASKe) provides some advice below to improve students’ understanding of feedback.

Prepare students to receive feedback by:

  • Aligning their expectations with yours, so that you agree the purpose of the feedback prior to the assessment
  • Identifying all channels of feedback (eg., oral in class; written on assignments)
  • Modelling the application of feedback using previously-marked assignments by showing students how feedback was used to improve the quality of later assignments
  • Encouraging the application of feedback by asking students to use their feedback to improve their later assignments
  • Supporting processes of self-assessment by asking students to submit evaluations of their work along with their assignments

Supplement written feedback with dialogue

  • Student engagement is enhanced if written feedback is supplemented with dialogue, for example by using in-class discussions of exemplars, peer-review discussions supported by tutors, learning through ‘learning sets’.

Provide timely feedback

  • Students engage with (and apply) feedback if they can recall the assignment, reflect on feedback comments, and then foresee ways to apply them
  • Feedback on draft assignments may engage students more effectively than feedback on final work which is returned at the beginning of the following semester
  • Consider giving generic feedback as soon as a general picture emerges of the quality of all assignments
  • New technologies may reduce the time required to prepare feedback, for example feedback can be dictated to a digital recorder and made available to students electronically

ASKe is a centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) based in the Business School at Oxford Brookes University.

System issues

If Blackboard becomes unavailable

Business Contingency Plans are in place to provide a consistent approach if ever Blackboard becomes unavailable for the submission of student work or to allow marking or the provision of feedback to be completed by staff.

What will happen if system unavailability prevents access to work for marking?

An extended period of time equivalent to the duration of system unavailability (up to 48 hours) will be allowed to complete the marking and provide feedback to students. Module Leaders should advise students by email if there is to be a delay in providing feedback due to system unavailability; either at the time of marking or the time of releasing feedback. If staff can still meet the original turnaround times this is encouraged.