On 18 April 2024, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering facilitated a workshop and student panel discussion on the topic of ‘Effective Feedback for Assessment Tasks: Strategies for Student Engagement and Success.’

In reviewing qualitative SFS results for our 2023 subject offerings, it was noted that the most common suggestion by students for improvement was still relating to assessment tasks and feedback. There were calls from students for a re-evaluation of the assessment tasks, including reducing the number of assessment tasks, clarifying marking criteria, and providing timely and constructive feedback. This highlights that there are opportunities to improve feedback practices in line with student suggestions to aid their learning.

The students’ perspective

A student panel offered insights into effective feedback delivery methods and preferences that enhance learning outcomes. Students shared experiences and highlighted feedback types that have significantly impacted their educational journey.

Prof. Behzad Fatahi with Civil Engineering students Maisha Choudhury, Angela Oria and Vedant Patkar sitting on stage at the student panel
Prof. Behzad Fatahi with Civil Engineering students Maisha Choudhury, Angela Oria and Vedant Patkar

Continuity and Timeliness

Students highlighted the significant impact of timely and ongoing feedback on their learning and performance. Weekly verbal feedback in class for group projects were called out as being particularly effective. There was a consensus among students that feedback should ideally be provided within 1-2 weeks, though ongoing feedback is crucial for continuous improvement.

Diverse modalities

The student panel discussed various feedback methods, including written comments, verbal feedback, peer reviews, and particularly, audio feedback. Audio feedback was praised for its ability to convey the tone and intent behind the comments, significantly reducing potential harshness or misunderstandings that may arise with text-based feedback.

Real-world application

The use of physical laboratories and industry-standard software in assessments was recognised as highly beneficial, offering practical experiences that directly connect with industry practices.

Leveraging GenAI

Students advocated for the use of AI tools like ChatGPT for providing clear, simple and accessible explanations of complex concepts anytime (compatible with 24/7 professional personal tutor). They advocated for the integration of such technology into educational practices to align with industry practices.

Keynote highlights

Keynote speakers Prof. Kylie ReadmanProf. Anne Gardner and Associate Prof. Jan McLean discussed strategic approaches and perspectives that underscored the critical importance of enhancing the feedback process.

  • Introduction of feedforward – emphasised as a proactive approach that focuses on future learning and improvement, feedforward guides students by providing relevant suggestions for upcoming tasks, fostering a mindset geared towards continuous learning.
  • Assessment as learning – redefines assessment as a core component of the learning process, actively involving students in their own evaluation to encourage self-reflection, knowledge gap identification and strategy development for personal growth.
  • Timeliness and actionability of feedback – highlights the need for timely and actionable feedback that students can use to adjust and enhance their work, supporting an agile learning process.
  • Diverse feedback sources – feedback sources can include peer reviews, self-assessment and potentially automated systems to enrich the learning environment, offer multiple perspectives and foster comprehensive support.

Academic case studies

Lastly, Dr. Anna Lidfors LindqvistDr. Cecilia Gravina da Rocha, and Associate Prof. Kirk Vessalas showcased some of the best practices in feedback mechanisms designed to enhance learning of our students.

Feedback practices for studios

The integration of formative feedback-driven sprints in engineering education was highlighted as a great practice. This method involves a series of design sprints, each ending with a critical review session providing immediate, actionable feedback. The agile, responsive setup allows students to iteratively improve their projects based on continuous feedback. Read more about this approach in Anna’s Lidfors Lindqvist’s blog post.

More efficiency with REVIEW

REVIEW has been a game-changer in providing effective and efficient feedback within large classroom settings. This innovative tool allows for bespoke and detailed feedback tailored to each assessment criterion, greatly enhancing the learning experience. It features a sliding scale for grading and supports a reusable comment library. 

Proactive feedforward in assessment strategies

This approach incorporates continuous improvement through a structured assessment timeline that includes feedforward sessions and drop-in reviews. Student engagement and learning outcomes are enhanced by focusing on future tasks rather than past performance.

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