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Effective feedback to small and large classes

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2 Author(s)
Sondergaard, H. ; Sch. of Electr. Eng. & Comput. Sci., Melbourne Univ., Vic., Australia ; Thomas, D.

Educational experts appear to be in broad agreement when it comes to the importance of feedback for effective learning. Students benefit from plenty of opportunity and encouragement to express their understanding, and from informed, supportive, possibly challenging, feedback. At the same time, we observe that many students at our university do not find that they receive helpful feedback. One in three engineering students disagree or strongly disagree with the quality of teaching questionnaire's "I received helpful feedback on how I was going" in the individual course, and most other disciplines find themselves in a similar situation. For the university as a whole, student responses to this question are clearly less positive than to other questions on quality of teaching, intellectual stimulation, staff interest, workload, and so on, and this state of affairs seems quite common in the Australian context. We discuss best practice in feedback provision, partly based on our interviews with students and staff. We have been particularly interested in identifying cost-effective ways of providing informed and constructive feedback to large classes. Feedback is often understood, by engineering students and staff alike, simply as comments on submitted work typically written assignments. We argue in favour of a broader concept that covers a multitude of ways for a student to develop deep learning through conversation, including questions and answers provided by others, team work, study groups, and formative teacher-provided feedback during an assessment task. We emphasize the coaching role of the teacher, and feedback designed to encourage students to monitor own learning. Large classes pose particular logistic problems. We identify staff development as a crucial factor for consistent, effective feedback, and point to web-based feedback provision as a workable solution to some logistic problems. We briefly discuss the role of information technology more broadly, both for learning enhancement and for automated feedback provision.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education, 2004. FIE 2004. 34th Annual

Date of Conference:

20-23 Oct. 2004