Feedback Champions

Fostering a Supportive Feedback Culture

Being a Southampton Feedback Champion: first impressions (by Magdalena Siembab)

Posted on August 21, 2014 by in Blog

When I first heard about the Feedback Champions project – I thought: “how can one be a feedback champion? What is it all about?” I was confused but in the same time the title drawn my attention. And so I joined.

From the beginning we were thrown in at the deep end. I was supposed to interview six people from my faculty: two undergrads (eaaasyyy), two postgrads (wait, wait… how can I get two postgrads interested?!) and two members of staff (what?! who would have ever wanted to have an interview with me?!). Fortunately, Laurence (the project coordinator) gave us “water wings” in the form of a postgrad student (big kisses to Kristina) who was always there to help us swim in the deep waters of research.

And so it kicked up. The beginnings of the interviews were always tricky, as I had always a plan for the interview but I never stuck to it. The formal interview became more and more a casual conversation and a kind of debate over what we think a good feedback is. It was really interesting to see it happening especially if the feedback topic is not commonly raised (except from the times when we are moaning about how long we have waited for it).

Another thing that emerged from the interviews was the fact that students really appreciate the peer feedback. I have never thought about it myself, but after some conversations I realised how important it was during my studies. It might be therefore reasonable that some students complain on the lack of the group assignment in their courses. Obviously, such tasks should be properly supervised (one person working, three other relying on that one person’s work is not an adequate delegation of the tasks), nevertheless, students do want to actively cooperate with others and they do rely on their opinions.

An additional comment about the peer groups is in regards to comparisons between students. The study I conducted showed that students want to compare their results with what others have achieved. Though, it might be contentious that giving the average score of the exam leads to people resting on their laurels but simultaneously “being much better than the average” can be treated as some kind of the acknowledgement of one’s hard work. [For people in the Humanities: there are some departments where you never get the averages of the exam results].

Finally I wanted to talk about the consistency: students do not demand that in every Department the feedback will be done in the same way and every lecturer will be doing exactly the same. It is obviously stupid, but there are some things that should be consistent across the university such as procedures and conditions to review exams or statistical summary (at least the average) of the exam/coursework results.

After all, we all want our university to be the best version of itself. I believe that by programmes such as the Feedback Champions we are getting closer to the best version, at least in feedback, of the University of Southampton. Hope you will notice it too.

Magdalena Siembab
2nd year, BSc Mathematics with Economics

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