Feedback Champions

Fostering a Supportive Feedback Culture

For staff

The following suggestions are proposed as potential solutions to the key issues highlighted in the interviews carried out by the Feedback Champions. They include examples of best practice identified by University staff and students and reflecting the latest literature on effective feedback in higher education.

The supportive feedback culture we encourage you to foster within your practice is based on three main principles, i.e. Education for All, Safe Communication and Active Engagement. Each principle is supported by examples of good practice which are listed below.

Education for all

Educate students and staff about effective feedback, the different ways in which they receive it and their role within it

Explain to students what effective feedback is

  • Organise departmental induction sessions about feedback and the different ways students can expect to receive it (make sure you refer to the NSS questions about feedback – prompt, detailed, clarifies what wasn’t understood – so that students can make the connection)
    Find out more: e-learning tool for students (tbc)
  • Refer students to further online resources like the Feedback Champions website, your own department’s website if you have feedback-related content and the library’s feedback resources
    Find out more: Follow up feedback with the Hartley Library Academic Skills Hub
  • Encourage students to reflect on transferable skills gained from modules and how they can be carried forward to future modules & life opportunities; If it is possible, encourage students to collect exam transcripts as the feedback will be useful to them for future modules
    Find out more: Annotated Exam Transcripts; Written feedback on formal assignments
  • Say you are giving feedback when you are giving it: make sure you tell students you are giving them feedback when you are, write it in the subject of your email, include a slide on feedback in your lecture PPT, and write it on the board in the classroom. Make it visible so that students can identify it easily
    Find out more: tbc
  • Provide assessment criteria so that students know what they’re aiming for and they can tell what they’re good at. It is also good to show examples which meet your assessment criteria and some which don’t so that they can get familiar with the standards
    Find out more: tbc
  • Encourage students to value feedback from everyone in the university learning community, e.g. peers, tutors, mentors, as they are all opportunities to access some kind of feedback and get a new perspective on your work
    Find out more: Diversity of feedback on placement; Feedback from PhD supervisors; Feedback from the research community; Feedback in laboratory sessions, skills sessions and action learning groups; Mix of staff and peer feedback; Personal Academic Tutor; Regular informal and peer feedback in seminars

Explain to staff what effective feedback is

  • Provide informal training (colleagues’ knowledge and expertise) and formal training to new lecturers who join your department (compulsory in some faculties) on how to appropriately give feedback, i.e. it should be more than a mark, grade or grade indication, or general phrases such as “Good effort”
    Find out more: Check ILIaD for PCAP training and short courses on feedback
  • Share University/ Faculty/ Academic Unit specific feedback policies with students and staff. This is especially important for lecturers coming from a non-teaching background or for postgraduate students marking exams
    Find out more: Assessment Feedback to Students Policy; Consistency of feedback across lecturers
  • Publish assessment schedules at the beginning of each semester (i.e. dates when assessments are set, submitted and dates for results/feedback)
    Find out more: tbc
  • Signpost feedback when feedback is being given to improve students’ knowledge of what feedback is (Pavlov’s dog)
    Find out more: tbc


Safe communication

Promote a safe and comfortable environment which nurtures students’ agency and encourages them to engage with staff into a feedback dialogue

Use a variety of communication channels and methods to encourage different learners to engage in the feedback dialogue in different ways

Get students to promote a feedback dialogue to each other

  • Engage with Student Representatives and ask whether they could play a more active role in educating peers about feedback practices and bringing issues to staff prior to module evaluations
    Find out more: Course representatives
  • Get senior UG, PGT or PGR students to provide context to lower-year modules to help them engage in the feedback dialogue (i.e. why is this assessment important? Why should students care?)
    Find out more: Book a feedback Champion
  • Make the most of student-staff committees and ensure that students report any issues to their student reps and that student reps feedback to their peers after the committee meeting has taken place
    Find out more: Course representatives
  • Take your student-staff committee online with a tool such as UNITU, which is a software allowing students, course reps and staff to collectively raise, discuss and resolve academic issues all in one place. It helps closing the feedback loop
    Find out more:
  • Use peer feedback as a way to put students in the lecturer’s position, thus removing the barriers between staff and students, and encourage them to gradually build their confidence to engage in the feedback dialogue with staff
    Find out more: Mix of staff and peer feedback; Regular informal and peer feedback in seminars


Active engagement

Encourage students to take control of their learning[iii][iv] and staff to enable them to do so, so that both can engage in the feedback process and make it more effective[v]

Encourage learners’ autonomy through peer-assessment/feedback & self-assessment/feedback

  • Develop students’ Knowledge and Understanding (K&U) of the standards by using example essays to calibrate peer assessment, getting students to assess their own or their peers’ work and eventually providing the ‘official’ mark, which students can compare with their own
    Find out more: Giving yourself feedback; Mix of staff and peer feedback; Regular informal and peer feedback in seminars
  • Encourage group presentations followed by class discussions where students give feedback on their peer’s presentations. Public feedback can have greater impact than when received on your own as it gives students a ‘sense of ownership and pride in their work’
    Find out more: Peer feedback on presentations and other assessments during class; Verbal and written feedback on oral presentations
  • Try ‘Appraisal’ type marking to develop students’ self-assessment skills:
    a. Student marks where they think they are
    b. Lecturer grades them as to where they ‘actually’ are
    c. Feedback focuses on areas where there is the greatest gap
    Find out more: tbc
  • Facilitate a constructive culture of peer feedback by encouraging anything from discussing work in class to commenting on others’ work or creating a module or course-related Facebook group or Twitter hashtag
    Find out more: Regular informal and peer feedback in seminars; Social media platforms and other online forums
  • Be aware that students need educating on giving feedback to peers as well as to staff. It is important to guide peer feedback at first in order to facilitate constructive peer feedback and foster transferrable skills
    Find out more: tbc

Develop learner autonomy by encouraging students to keep track of their feedback

  • Encourage learner autonomy by encouraging students to collect marked assignments so that they can see their feedback and take it on board for future work
    Find out more: Annotated Exam Transcripts; Written feedback on formal assignments
  • Encourage students to create an online resource, i.e. a ‘feedback portfolio’ where all the feedback students get throughout their course is stored and they can refer to it at any time. It can store feedback from all aspects, e.g. assessments, essays, or group work, and should include feedback on content but also on transferrable skills. Electronic feedback makes it easier, either via an assessment software, e.g. e-Assignment, or Word Tracked Changes
    Find out more: Computer-mediated annotations (e.g. E-Assignments, Turnitin); Mark Sheets; Using spreadsheets to keep track of students’ feedback
  • Ask students to list on the cover sheet of an assignment 3 items they would like feedback on and give detailed feedback only on this. This forces them to make the link between assignments (within the same module or not) and take responsibility for their work
    Find out more: Mark Sheets
  • Ask students to explain on the cover sheet what they have done to improve on previous feedback
    Find out more: Mark Sheets

Assessment for learning

A supportive feedback culture also encourages an assessment approach based on Assessment for Learning (AfL), which the following examples of assessment practices are based on:

Engage with formative assessment to improve students’ learning and enable them to become independent learners

  • Consider fewer summative assessments to allow for more feedback-rich formative work
  • Recognise the importance of feedback on formative work (not counting or lightly weighted towards final grade) within the learning process. To achieve this, formative assessments should follow the same format as summative ones
    Find out more: Formative assessment = feedback opportunities
  • Consider 2-stage assessment:
    • Stage 1: feedback, no mark
    • Stage 2: mark, no feedback = students work on feedback to improve mark

Link assessments to encourage students to use feedback from one assignment to the next

  • Consider redesigning the sequence of assignments and introduce linked assessment (assignment 1 feeds into 2 which feeds into 3 and then assignment 4 pulls them all together) so that there is continuity between modules & assessments, i.e. have formative assessments that are relevant to future assessments:
    • Feedback works better in linked assessment (feedback helps students to tackle their next piece of work)
    • Feedback works less effectively in ‘one cycle’ assignments (a single essay with nothing linked to it before or afterwards – students may not care about the feedback as they won’t do the same assignment again)

Linked assessment assumes prompt feedback, which engages students while it is still fresh in their mind

  • Feedback needs to be delivered quickly to benefit learning. Although the University policy is 4 weeks for assessments and 6 weeks for exams, ideally, some kind of feedback should be given to students within a week, even if it is only general feedback. This will be very effective as students’ work will still be fresh in their minds. Individual detailed feedback can be given later (within 4 to 6 weeks).
    Find out more: Timeliness of written feedback
  • Quick feedback (within 1 week) is better late and perfect as it has a bigger impact on students’ learning . It can be achieved by:
    • Giving model answers straight after an assignment
    • Summarising good and bad points from a few assignments and discussing them in your next lecture
    • Giving general feedback to the class to target common issues quickly and then give students the option of coming to see you for more detailed feedback, which addresses specific areas for improvement. This also encourages students to take control of their learning as it is their responsibility to seek more feedback
  • Interactive learning technologies, e.g. zappers, quizzes, can be used to provide instant feedback and engage students with it in real time
    Find out more: Quizzes, problem sheets and online tests

Evaluation of feedback

For this culture to remain active and adapted to the needs of its members, it needs to be reviewed and evaluated regularly. In order to do so, you can:

  • Use mid-term evaluation to get feedback from students at a time when it is still possible to make changes to the module that will benefit students (take the opportunity to ask them whether they are satisfied with the feedback they are receiving)
    Find out more: SUSU is currently preparing a generic mid-term evaluation form that will be circulated to all lecturers
  • Make the most of student-staff committees by encouraging students to share concerns with their course reps and by encouraging course reps to feed back to students so that they can see that their concerns has been dealt with in some ways
    Find out more: Course representatives
  • Encourage all students to take part in the NSS so that the Academic Unit gets a truer reflection of what all students think, not just some of them
    Find out more:

Check the the Resources section for more examples of good practice, videos, tools and references.