It’s not a feedback problem, it’s a human problem. Feedback isn’t an academic skill – it’s a life skill!

In the opening keynote of this year’s Learning and Teaching Forum, Professor Naomi Winstone went straight to the heart of why feedback is so important, and why it continues to present challenges in education and beyond. Her talk set the scene for a cross-faculty, University-wide day of debate and discussion. Together, we explored how we can create opportunities, support learning and enhance the student experience through feedback.

What can the Great Britain cycling team teach us about feedback?

Feedback doesn’t need to be this ‘bolt-on’ we need to find lots of extra time for…

Naomi Winstone tackled the challenges of feedback head-on. She noted the persistent paradigms of ‘transmission’-based, one-way feedback that has limited impact on student learning without active engagement and implementation. The result can feel like an ever-increasing burden on stretched teaching staff to deliver more feedback, faster.

Naomi shared inspiration from Sir Dave Brailsford’s ‘marginal gains’ work with Great Britain’s cycling team, which focussed on many small improvements across a broad range of factors, leading to huge success in both the Beijing and London Olympics. We can achieve meaningful change by similarly improving small elements of feedback processes to create significant impact on learning.

Naomi then outlined three particular areas to consider – how we design feedback, the skills we nurture in students to use/apply feedback, the important focus on humanising feedback – while keeping the emotional and relationship-based elements in focus. Some of these points are captured in a mind map of her presentation below:

Noami’s keynote speech

A student perspective

Students’ experience of feedback has featured in many discussions this year, including a student panel at the FFYE Forum where students shared their positive and negative experiences of feedback.

Students were again invited to the Learning and Teaching Forum, and this time were both presenting and participating across many of the sessions throughout the day. Themes that emerged from their reflections of the day included an appreciation for the efforts put in by teachers to offer feedback, but also a plea for feedback to be designed into learning much earlier, with more frequent opportunities for dialogue, review and discussion to support learning.

For more ways to think about students and feedback, explore this new resource on how to get feedback on your feedback. Our understanding of student experiences of feedback has also been captured in a recent report by the LX.lab team.

Feeding forward

At the end of the day, attendees were asked to highlight the aspects of feedback they were most interested in learning more about. The results highlighted a broad curiosity about many of the feedback themes covered during the day’s presentations, from inclusion and belonging to peer feedback and work-integrated learning.

Top of the learning list, however, was feedback literacy, which almost half of respondents were keen to explore further. Over a third are also interested in automated feedback and technology-enhanced feedback. This suggests that whilst folks are keen to establish feedback fundamentals, they’re also curious to get to know the tools that can help power feedback in new ways.

More than 130 individuals also took the time to note their personal takeaway actions from the day – an impressively motivated mindset after a full day of presentations! Many of these picked up on the theme of student empathy, and engaging in clear dialogue on feedback:

Making my feedback more sensitive to the feelings of students

Get a chance to stand in students’ shoes; use multiple methods to give students feedback

Help students see feedback as a process of career development – a continuous improvement process in becoming a professional

To review my feedback to students by using more empathy, taking into account their life experiences. This may impact more first year students and how I frame the comments.

Design feedback tasks to be about building relationships, shifting mindsets and creating insights as well as giving constructive advice for improvement that promotes ongoing motivation to learn

…plus Santa on a unicorn

Unlike last years’ fully online event, there were opportunities to connect on-campus for drinks with canapés and lunch on the Alumni Green – complete with Santa on a unicorn! The day ended with an announcement of the 2021 UTS Learning and Teaching Awards and Citations winners.

Watch the highlights of the Learning & Teaching Forum

Keep an eye out for our upcoming series of blogs based on many of the inspiring presentations from the event, which we’ll feature in early 2022.

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