Feedback literacy describes teachers and students developing a shared common understanding of effective feedback practice (see Evans, 2013, 2016; Wong, 2019) with each playing a vital, but distinct, role in the feedback process.
This approach builds on a wealth of research highlighting that for feedback to support student learning, it is critical that students actively engage with and act on it (Winstone and Nash, 2016), acknowledging that barriers, such as not understanding or knowing how to interpret feedback, often mean students feel unable to act (Jonsson, 2013).
Developing students' ability to take an active role in the feedback process should equip them to become self-regulating, independent learners. Simultaneously, the staff role becomes less about being the sole provider of feedback comments, and more one that supports students’ understanding and engagement with a range of feedback opportunities.
Developing feedback literacy in practice
The Understand, Engage, Act (UEA) framework detailed below was developed as part of a Teaching Development Fund project carried out in 2021.
Key to the UEA approach is allowing space for students to talk, discuss, ask questions, and practice in a supported environment. This can take place in a variety of fora, including as part of scheduled teaching sessions or as specific workshops. This dialogue underpins each of the three stages detailed below.
What are your students' experiences of the feedback process?
- An initial survey of students and staff can be used to prompt reflection and generate meaningful data to begin conversations. This survey overview resource provides example questions based on key dimensions of assessment and feedback practice identified in Evans' Assessment Tool (2016) and includes student- and staff-facing versions of question text.
What feedback activities do your students think are most effective (and which take the most time for you to administer)?
- The feedback matrix resource (adapted from Phil Race) is a simple, yet effective way to explore which feedback practices students find most effective whilst raising awareness of the time and resource implications for staff. This can be used to identify key feedback activities that form part of a co-created feedback plan in the 'Engage' stage (see below). Here is an example of a feedback matrix completed by staff and students as part of the TDF project.
A student-staff workshop or similar space (in person or online) can be an effective way to utilise these resources and provide opportunity for dialogue that leads to enhanced understanding. An example workshop plan, based on that used in the TDF project, is available and can be adapted to your particular context.
Enhanced awareness and understanding of the feedback process provides a strong foundation on which to promote students' engagement in feedback activity and to outline the roles that both staff and students will play in this to ensure feedback is effective for learning and performance.
- A feedback plan, co-created by students and staff, is a simple way to outline an agreed approach. We recommend identifying a few feedback activities to focus on initially, perhaps informed by discussions arising from using the matrix resource above. Our feedback action plan template is available to use and emphasises the importance of student, as well as staff, engagement and action in the feedback process.
Note: Depending on the size of of your cohort you may wish to work with a subset of students to develop the feedback action plan. In this case it is important that the plan is then shared with the whole student cohort and reviewed at appropriate points. Similarly, if a unit is taught by a team, it is important to ensure that all staff involved in teaching are familiar with the feedback plan.
With a shared feedback plan in place it is sensible to build in moments to reflect with your students on progress and revise if appropriate. This will involve checking that students are clear about upcoming feedback opportunities and the nature of their active role in these.
The following are examples of how the Understand, Engage, Act approach and resources were used to enhance feedback practice:
Staff and students used workshop spaces to discuss expectations around feedback, finding the feedback matrix resource particularly beneficial for stimulating awareness of each others' perspectives. The co-created action plan identified existing planned feedback opportunities, making small but impactful changes based on student input.
From dialogue around expectations of feedback practice, staff and students identified a desire to better utilise peer feedback activity. This was a new feedback activity in the unit. The action plan detailed what role staff would take to set-up the activity, and alongside this the expectations on students to engage with this opportunity.
Although this was offered as an optional feedback opportunity, there was a good uptake across the cohort. The peer feedback activity was considered successful and has been offered to subsequent cohorts.
Carless, D. and Boud, D. (2018) ‘The development of student feedback literacy: Enabling uptake of feedback’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(8), pp. 1315-1325. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463354
Find out more about the Understand, Engage, Act project.