This blog is co-written by Ann Wilson and Marty van de Weyer

The feedback we provide students with is often highlighted as a key part of their learning. There is, however, quite a bit expected of learners in their actions of making use of it. Using feedback effectively is a skill – one that they are unlikely to have had specific instruction around.

Students need to: 

  • work through the language and internalise the advice given
  • in some cases, extrapolate general comments to apply to particular past or future actions
  • make choices about how to action it as part of the things they are doing next
  • know on what points to seek clarification (and where)

These actions require significant analytical thinking and create high mental load, particularly because these functions need to be performed in relation to subject knowledge that learners are still working to internalise. Therefore many students would benefit from hearing about frameworks that they could use to step through and shape the process of utilising feedback.

A process through which learners make sense of information from various sources and use it to enhance their work or learning strategies

Feedback literacy as defined by Carless and Boud (2018)

The above definition broadens the idea that feedback comes from the teacher but also gives the student a sense of agency. At UTS, we have been increasingly using the terminology of ‘feedback agency’ to highlight that feedback is not just something that you read; it’s something that you have the capacity to unpack, use and ask for, and create for yourself and others. 

A framework of 4 elements

A model of student feedback literacy articulated by Carless and Boud (2018) identifies a framework of four interrelated elements that the feedback literate student displays.

  1. Appreciating feedback – recognising the value of feedback and understanding the role feedback plays in improvement, and their role in that process.
  2. Making judgements – students need to develop skills of self-evaluation, to be less focused on the idea of feedback as teacher telling, but develop and refine their own capacity for judging quality.
  3. Managing affect – the often-defensive response we have to feedback, particularly critical feedback, and the need to manage that response and to be open to the opportunity afforded by the feedback.
  4. Taking action – the previous three elements are negated without students taking action on the feedback and closing the feedback loop.

7 features of the feedback literate student

Using interviews, surveys and case studies Molloy, Boud, and Henderson provide proof for this theoretical framework by identifying seven features of the feedback literate student. The students should:

  1. Commit to feedback as improvement
  2. Appreciate feedback as an active process
  3. Elicit information to improve learning
  4. Process feedback information
  5. Acknowledge and work with emotions
  6. Recognise feedback as a reciprocal process
  7. Enact outcomes of feedback

Carless and Boud propose that peer feedback and analysing exemplars can be used to develop students’ feedback literacy, as they mirror the framework by providing opportunity for the student to appreciate feedback, make judgements, manage affect and take action. The use of both peer feedback and analysing exemplars needs support and development by the teacher for it to be useful in developing student feedback literacy.

3 strategies for using the framework

Boud identified three strategies for using the framework.  

  1. The students are active in feedback activities 
  2. Feedback literacy is included in all courses 
  3. Instruments are developed to track feedback literacy over time

Explore student-facing resources on feedback

UTS already has student-facing resources that you can utilise that are aimed at giving students frameworks for funnelling their feedback experience.

  • Embracing Feedback helps students work through the affective impact of feedback and how they can accept it and then shift focus to the feedback content and what they can do moving forward.
  • The worksheet attached to this resource provides a staged process for moving from emotional reaction to a discrete number of actions moving forward.
  • Finding and Using feedback discusses the different places to seek feedback and the different ways that it can be applied.

Continue the feedback discussion at the UTS Learning & Teaching Forum

This year’s Learning & Teaching Forum on November 29th will focus on enhancing the student experience by exploring the ways we create opportunities and support learning through feedback. It brings together multiple perspectives from emerging research, academics and professional staff, students, and industry. Consider how you might put your own learning to practice in your teaching or professional work, and how feedback might be enhanced through current and emerging tools and technologies.

  • Thanks Ann – I really like reading about what you write on making sure that students see feedback as an active and collaborative process. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that feedback is just a few times after an assessment! I appreciate your summary of the ‘feedback literate student’ as well.

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