This post is co-authored by David Waller, Kaye Chan and Geetanjali Saluja.

An important part of the learning process is obtaining feedback so that a learner knows what was effective about their assessment response, understands why they received their grade, and has ideas about what they could do to improve their response next time.

So, the role of providing good feedback is important for an academic marker, but what is considered good feedback? As we think of enhancing our quality of feedback and different types of feedback, it’s important to reflect on what students think good feedback is. Asking students this question can provide an understanding of student expectations and a baseline to engage in a discussion on feedback.

“What is good feedback?”

To understand students’ perspectives of what they think good feedback is, we asked almost 300 mainly first-year marketing students to respond to the question: “What is good feedback?”.

This simple, direct question provided us with a range of detailed responses which we believe gave us a strong indication of what students would like in their feedback. The data was analysed by using a word cloud visualisation and Leximancer software.

Student views about feedback

Word cloud analysis uncovered the words that were mentioned most often by the students. Apart from the word “feedback”, the top 10 words mentioned were: “improve”, “can”, “constructive”, “work”, “written”, “better”, “specific”, “well”, “like”, and “detailed”.

A word cloud showing the frequency of student words answering 'What is good feedback?'. See paragraph above for top 10 words.
The word cloud of words to describe good feedback.

Next, the open-ended responses from students on feedback were analysed using the text mining software Leximancer. This resulted in six overall themes, with 26 concepts identified.

Feedback responses: 6 themes and 28 concepts

Theme and hitsConcepts
Feedback (70 hits)feedback, work, Feedback, written, wrong, students, Verbal, tutors, learning
Constructive (61 hits)constructive, Constructive, marks, assignment, specific, grade, certain
Sure (33 hits)sure, better, things, questions, attend
Doing (23 hits)doing, personal, best, mistakes
Detailed (18 hits)detailed, areas
Analyse (2 hits)analyse

Leximancer analysis also includes ‘balloons’, which illustrate the relationship between the words and theme. According to the visual results, the main themes are clearly Feedback and Constructive, and yet each has relationships with two different themes. This indicates that the students want feedback that is analytical (Analysis) and practical (Doing), and the constructive feedback should be clear (Sure) and detailed (Detailed).

Leximancer balloon analysis of words to describe good feedback. 'Feedback' and 'constructive' are the two largest balloons. Connected to 'feedback' are 'analyse' and 'doing', and connected to 'constructive' are 'detailed' and 'sure'.
Leximancer Balloons with feedback word analysis.

Other points raised in learner comments were that while some students like verbal feedback, written feedback is key. Students want the feedback to be specific to them, show them how to improve, and include comments focused on where their mistakes were and how to correct them. Students want to learn from the feedback and know how to improve in the future, which is emphasised by the high frequency of word “constructive”.

From asking a simple question, “What is good feedback?”, we have been able to obtain a rich source of data to understand what university students would like from their feedback. Our job now is to listen and respond so that students become active partners in their learning process.

Read the full article as originally published on The Campus.

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