Getting the most out of Feedback

Giving feedback

Just because everyone provides and receives feedback does not mean that all feedback is good or understood. For example, since the UK National Student Survey (NSS) was first introduced in 2005 assessment and feedback have been the areas with the lowest rates of student satisfaction. Research shows that part of the problem is that a lot of the feedback which takes place is not recognised as feedback either by the intended recipient or by the provider.

Consider the nursery rhyme: John_Fell_by_Peter_Lely

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

The origins of this rhyme are uncertain, but it is believed to have been written by the satirist Tom Brown (1662-1704) concerning John Fell, the then Dean of Christ Church at the University of Oxford.

We might see the poem as a form of  feedback from a student to a lecturer. But is it a good piece of feedback?

  • We do not know why the author does not like Dr Fell.
  • Even the author admits, even he does not know why he does not like Dr Fell.
  • There is no suggestion of what Dr Fell might do to become more likeable.
  • There is no clue as to whether or not the author’s feelings about Dr Fell are relevant to anything specific.

So what is good feedback?

Phil Race gives the following characteristics of good feedback:

Good feedback Stick Men2


Feedback which is relevant, timely, meaningful and has suggestions for improvement can:

  • Help us know how we can improve the ways we, as individuals, study, teach, research, lead or provide support for activities in the university.
  • Ensure that the feedback we provide to others is beneficial to the university community.
  • Assist everyone in developing processes that ensure good quality teaching and learning.
  • Be able to effectively address problems and challenges which may arise.