Navigating the peaks and valleys of student feedback can be tricky. On one hand, detailed and constructive feedback can help you to make meaningful improvements to your subject to enhance the learning experience for your students. On the other hand, you might not receive the targeted and constructive feedback you hoped for. Let’s take a look at what can be done to increase your chances of useful student feedback.

Encourage your students to participate in feedback surveys

One of the most effective ways to encourage student involvement is to show that their feedback will have a tangible impact. You can do this by describing or showing evidence of previous changes that have come from student input.

From Encourage students to share feedback on LX Resources

Students may not immediately grasp the significance and impact of their feedback without an explanation of how feedback from the surveys is used – but after studying for a full session, most students will have thoughts about their experience. Your guidance and encouragement as a teacher will help them to know that they do have an opportunity to contribute to the learning process.

Read through the Interpreting Student Feedback collection on LX Resources

Our new resource collection Interpreting Student Feedback takes you through the various steps of receiving and interpreting feedback. If you’ve received a lower score than you expected in your student feedback, this collection can provide reflective exercises and actionable approaches drawn from staff with experience in this area. Understanding what the survey is asking, what kinds of responses you hope to get from students, deciding how to take on feedback and implement it in your subject will go a long way in understanding the purpose of the surveys and developing your own approach to making them work for you.

Dealing with the emotional side of feedback

Opening yourself up to feedback and potential critique can be daunting. There’s certainly an emotional component of receiving feedback, and that’s something that can be discussed in class before students fill out their survey forms. Amanda White’s advice for providing guidance to students to consider the impact of their words in her post Remote teaching and student feedback – a request for kindness is a great starting point, with a helpful infographic you can share with students. And in The Student Feedback Survey Results Experience, Annette Dowd outlines some excellent tips for steering yourself through the process, and ensuring that you have something useful by the end of it.

Recent discussion amongst academics online has touched on the downsides of the feedback process, prompted by reporting on the malicious commentary that some academics have received. As Annette Dowd writes in the post mentioned above, “Some students use their anonymity as an excuse to forgo all social etiquette”. It’s important to remember that these responses are in the minority, and recent student survey results at UTS have shown encouragingly high scores. However, nobody wants to receive these kinds of comments at all. The UTS Feedback Survey Policy defines the rules and expectations of students, and it may be helpful to both familiarise yourself with the policy, and to share or discuss with your students.

Effective feedback benefits everyone

At last year’s Learning and Teaching Forum, which focused on putting feedback for learning into practice, students Aiza Khan and Devashree Veerappan offered a student perspective on receiving feedback for assessments in their presentation. In their recap post, Aiza and Devashree emphasised some characteristics of constructive feedback:

Feedback that is personalised, points at improvements, and helps the individual.

Aiza Khan and Devashree Veerappam

‘Destructive’ feedback was described as either generic or surface level, or a total lack of feedback. Perhaps unsurprisingly, what academics and students recognise as valuable feedback is not so different. Knowing this, and starting your conversation about feedback with students with open and clear communication, will help in establishing good practices for your feedback loops.

Feature image by Patrick Perkins.

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