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Feedback on learning In the hands of the student David Nicol Emeritus Professor of Higher Education University of Strathclyde, Scotland Visiting Professor,

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Presentation on theme: "Feedback on learning In the hands of the student David Nicol Emeritus Professor of Higher Education University of Strathclyde, Scotland Visiting Professor,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Feedback on learning In the hands of the student David Nicol Emeritus Professor of Higher Education University of Strathclyde, Scotland Visiting Professor, University of Ulster Adjunct Professor, University of Swinburne, Australia Expert Consultant to JISC: Assessment and Feedback Programme Talking about Teaching, York St John University, 25 Jan 2013

2 Focus of presentation Theoretical perspective – cognitive dimensions Teacher feedback and peer feedback Written assignments – open-ended and complex tasks Practice – illustrative cases – peer review UK JISC-funded PEER project, see website Nicol (2012) Resituating feedback from the reactive to the proactive

3 Purpose of feedback Feedback should develop the students capacity to make evaluative judgements about their own and others work (Boud and Associates, 2010: Cowan, 2010; Sadler, 2010) Feedback should serve the function of progressively enabling students to better monitor, evaluate and regulate their own learning, independently of the teacher (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006: Nicol, 2009)

4 Teacher feedback in higher education Students are less satisfied with teacher feedback than with any other aspect of their course (National Student Survey UK) feedback is not timely feedback is not detailed feedback did not clarify things I did not understand

5 Some Institutional Remedies Faster turnaround times for assignments Electronic feedback, including audio feedback Feedback calendars to clarify timings Improved feedback rubrics/criteria More attention to providing corrective advice Feedback on exams Awareness raising campaigns to highlight student role in feedback Etc.

6 Cognitive processes in use of teacher feedback Teacher activity Deliver feedback Student activities Decode feedback messages, internalise, construct meaning from them Evaluate and compare this external feedback against own work Identify discrepancies, misconceptions, alternative views, gaps in work Revise and reconstruct knowledge based on the inner feedback that these processes generate Transfer this revised understanding to new contexts and tasks

7 Cognitive processes For feedback to be support learning, and develop evaluative judgement, two cognitive processes must be elicited: 1. Evaluation – students must reflect on and evaluate their own work in relation to a feedback input – identify gaps, misconceptions, errors, structural deficiencies, other perspectives, weaknesses etc. 2. Knowledge building – students must use the feedback they generate from these evaluative processes to repair misunderstandings and construct a better understanding. This entails knowledge building.

8 Terminology I use the following term borrowed from Roscoe and Chi (2008) to represent both processes of evaluation and knowledge building: reflective knowledge building (RKB) The question addressed is not just how do we improve use of teacher feedback but rather how do we harness and strengthen inner feedback processes?

9 Practical strategies to encourage RKB 1. Students evaluate/respond to comments – e.g. put them in own words and say what will do about them 2. When submit next assignment say how used earlier feedback (University of London) 3. Sequence assignments so that feedback is actually used – drafts and redrafts 4. Multi-stage projects and overlapping tasks 5. Patchwork text – different texts stitched together (Winter, 2003). 6. For 3,4 and 5 suggestive feedback rather than corrective advice. Technology: Recording comments and responses so that both teachers and students can easily revisit earlier feedback

10 Specific example: Steve Draper (Glasgow Univ) Proforma (prompt sheet) for making responses to feedback – the responses are discussed in a tutorial. 1. Re-phrase (each of) my comments on your essay in your own words: what do they mean? what did they apply to? what future actions do they imply? 2. If you had to re-edit this essay then how would you apply my feedback to do this, if at all? 3. How will you apply my feedback to writing your next essay? 4. Is the feedback I wrote at all useful to you personally, as far as you can tell now?

11 Guiding principle of good teacher feedback Guiding principle in educational policy documents Teacher feedback should be planned in ways that ensure that students are provided with explicit opportunities to respond to, evaluate and act on it. Might be the single most powerful way of addressing the NSS issue

12 Limitations with this model 1. Can promote learning of scripted responses – students dependent on teacher (Orsmond and Merry, 2011) 2. Assumes that others are required to identify and provide the information students need to learn and that learning is driven by how others go about this (Boud and Malloy, 2012) 3. Good feedback is adaptive (Vygotsky, 1978) 4. Still a transmission model even though the feedback loop is closed – students act on feedback 5. Practicality – workload

13 Feedback in professional and workplace settings 1. In the professions, feedback never comes from a single source: task is usually to evaluate, weigh up and reconcile and respond to different and sometimes contradictory feedback perspectives. 2. Professionals are not just consumers of feedback but also producers Nicol (2013) Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective

14 Peer review Definition of peer review Peer review is an arrangement whereby students make evaluative judgements about the work of peers and provide a written feedback commentary. In peer review, students produce as well as receive feedback.

15 The focus Not talking about scenarios involving..….informal feedback in collaborative tasks.....students evaluating each others contribution to group working.....students grading/marking each others work, although some rating might be part of peer design

16 Peer feedback receipt: augmenting teacher feedback Increases quantity and variety of feedback No extra workload on teacher when software used (e.g. PeerMark) Often perceived as more understandable as peers on the same wavelength (Topping, 2003: Hounsell, 1987)

17 Cognitive perspective: receiving reviews After receiving peer feedback students have opportunities to update their assignments. Hence activates reflective and knowledge re-construction Simulates professional scenarios – evaluating and reconciling different feedback perspectives – calls for acts of judgement Cho and MacArthur (2010) showed that students made more complex revisions to their work when feedback received from multiple peers when compared against a single peer or a single teacher.

18 However... Not enough attention has been focused on the potential of peer feedback not just as a way of increasing the quantity and quality of the feedback students receive, but also as a way of giving students practice in making evaluative judgements and constructing feedback See Nicol (2010) Developing students ability to construct feedback. Available at: -for-the-21st-century

19 PEER project funded by JISC UK One aim was to: Separate out the different feedback components involved in peer review – receipt versus production Prior research had either reported only receipt of peer feedback Or on combined effects of producing and receiving Much research on peer review was confounded by an emphasis on students marking each others work see

20 Cognitive benefits of feedback construction 1. High-level cognitive activity: students cannot easily be passive 2. Students actively exercise assessment criteria from many perspectives 3. Writing commentaries causes students to evaluate and rehearse their own knowledge 4. Evaluate different approaches to same work and learn that quality can be produced in different ways 5. Shifts responsibility to student – puts them in role of assessor exercising critical judgement

21 Cognitive benefits of feedback construction 6. Learn to evaluate their own work – as exactly the same skills are involved Develops capacity to make evaluative judgements - a fundamental requirement for life beyond university. Also, this capacity underpins all graduate attribute development (Nicol, 2010) Nicol, D (2011) Developing students ability to construct feedback, Published by QAA for Higher Education, UK ates-for-the-21st-century

22 Example 1: Engineering Design Peer Project case study DM 100 Design 1: first-year class Dr Avril Thomson, Course Leader, Design Manufacturing and Engineering Management (DMEM), University of Strathclyde Caroline Breslin, Learning Technology Adviser, University of Srathclyde Funded by JISC: see

23 Engineering Design 1 82 first-year students Design a product – theme eating and resting in the city Research in groups (in city, in library etc.) Individually produce a Product Design Specification (PDS) – detailed requirements for and constraints on design ( rationale, performance,standards, manufacturing etc ) Given a PDS exemplar from another domain to show whats required (stainless steel hot water cylinder) Online learning environment: Moodle and PeerMark part of Turnitin suite

24 Product Design Specification Typical Headings Rationale Performance Environment Packaging Maintenance Weight and size Disposal Shipping Processes Time Scale Patents Product costs Aesthetics Ergonomics Materials Testing Quality/reliability Competition Marketing Life in service

25 DM 100: Design 1 Peer review task Individually, each student peer-reviewed and provided feedback on the draft PDS of two other students Criteria: (i) completeness (ii) convincingness of rationale (iii) specificity of values (performance) (iv) one main suggestion for improvements with reasons Students used experience, giving and receiving feedback to update own PDS Peer review not assessed directly but 10% marks for professionalism which included participation in peer review.

26 Evaluation 1.Online survey completed by 64 students 2.Focus group interviews 3.Peer review comments recorded online 4.Course work marks compared to previous years

27 Results 1 Which aspects of the peer review did you learn from? Giving feedback10.9% Receiving feedback26.6% Giving and receiving feedback54.7% Neither giving or receiving7.8%

28 Results 2 Did you modify your initial submission as a result of the peer review activity? Yes, as a result of the peer review given 23.4% Yes, as a result of the peer review received 25.0% Yes as a result of the peer review given AND received 28.1% No21.9% N/A1.6%

29 Results: student comments If yes, please give specific examples of modifications (n=41) [Comments are from different students] I added a couple of paragraphs and improved existing paragraphs, this added two full A4 pages to my work I provided more specific numeric values and expanded my rationale after seeing someone elses PDS and after receiving feedback I added a legal and patents section Improved the rationale, included more facts I made some of my numeric points more specific to my final design concept.

30 Results: learning from RECEIVING feedback Please give examples of what you learned from RECEIVING peer reviews from other students (n=54) Specific content mentioned: Depth of analysis needed, more numerical data and figures, stronger rationale, how to structure it better etc. Receiving peer reviews gave me insight into what others thought of my work and gave me a direction to improve (reader response) Where the PDS was confusing to understand (reader response) Parts that I had previously missed were brought to eye such as market competition (noticing) The person who peer reviewed my PDS gave me positive feedback which helped me a lot (motivational) Not much, they...[the peer reviews]...werent very good (no value)

31 Results: learning from PROVIDING feedback Please give examples of what you learned from PROVIDING peer reviews of others work (n=47) How to look at work critically that isnt your own [critical judgement] Thinking from a critical point of view [critical judgement] I was given a greater understanding of the level of the work the course may be demanding [attention to expectations/criteria] Allowed me to see from an assessors perspective [expectations/criteria] When giving advice to people on theirs, it gave me greater perception when reviewing my own work by listening to my own advice for example [transfer] I had a chance to see other peoples work and aspects of their work that I felt were lacking in my work, this helped me to improve my work [transfer]

32 Results: How you carried out peer review Could you make any comments about how you carried out the peer review? How did you evaluate the quality of the work to provide a response to the peer review questions? (n=37) I compared it to mine and...and said how I would improve it Partly by comparing my work to theirs I tried to think about what I wrote and whether this PDS was better or worse

33 Focus groups How did you go about reviewing? I read it through and compared it with what I had done to see if they had put something I had not done and then I added it in if they hadnt. The four questions...[provided by the teacher]...were useful as they provided a framework for the review. If we hadnt had the questions it would have been difficult. I did the reviews separately and then answered one then the other. The first was a better standard than the other – so I used the ideas from the better one to comment on the weaker one. I also read the guidelines in class when I did the peer review. There were ideas from the good one that I hadnt even thought of in mine

34 Focus groups What do you think is best for learning – giving or receiving feedback? For me it would probably be to give feedback because I think seeing what other people have done is more helpful than getting other peoples comments on what you have already done. By looking at other peoples work you can see for yourself what you have forgotten or not even thought about. When people give feedback on yours they generally just talk about what is there. They dont say, well I did this on mine and you could put that in yours.

35 Focus groups What do you think is best for learning – giving or receiving feedback? I think when you are reviewing...[the work of peers]...its more a self-learning process, youre teaching yourself; well, I can see somebodys done that and thats a strength, and I should maybe try and incorporate that somehow into my work. Whereas getting...[teacher]... feedback youre kind of getting told what to do; youre getting told this is the way you should be doing it, and this is the right way to do it. Youre not really thinking for yourself.... I think...[reviewing]... would help you not need so much of teacher feedback, if there was more of this. Whereas, I think if youre not being able to do...[reviewing]... then you will always be needing more...[teacher feedback]...

36 Results Yes76.6% No3.1% Maybe 18.8% Dont know1.6% Would you choose to participate in a peer review exercise in the future?

37 Theoretical considerations : peer review Elicits multiple acts of evaluative judgement 1. Evaluate peers work against own 2. Evaluate one peers work against another (and own) 3. Evaluate work against given criteria to produce response Students both create and apply evaluative criteria 1 Create criteria as they compare work with own (holistic) 2 Apply explicit criteria (analytic) to instances of practice New perspective on good feedback practice 1 Students construct feedback meanings for themselves while they produce it for others 2 More control over feedback and less need for teacher feedback

38 Some tentative conclusions Giving and receiving feedback are qualitatively different Feedback receipt helps bring deficiencies in own work to students attention, can be motivational and gives a experience of different audiences (readers) Feedback production a more direct means of developing evaluative judgement – critical thinking, using criteria and standards, being more objective about own work Fortunately receiving and giving usually occur in the same domain of assignment production – hence double duty – as both processes help develop important professional skills.

39 Enhancing evaluative judgement through peer review Maximise the number of reviews within practical limits Integrate peer and self reviews – would enhance transfer Embed opportunities for dialogue in reviewing process Broaden the scope of the review criteria –beyond critiquing Make reviewing a regular activity Change focus of teacher feedback to commenting on quality of peer reviews.

40 Design decisions 1. Target task – draft, factual or open-ended (design, computer programme, essay, report etc) 2. Unit for task: individual, pair, group 3. Unit for review: individual, pair, group work 4. Matching reviewers: random, ability, topic 5. Number of reviews (counteracting poor reviews) 6. Privacy: anonymous or public outputs 7. Peer review rubric – not-given: guidelines: fixed format 8. Review focus: generic v disciplinary, holistic v analytic 9. Using peer feedback: drafts, self-review, new task 10. Requesting and responding to feedback 11. Grading: no marks, marks for participation, for reviews, marks for self-review after peer review

41 Principles of effective peer review 1. Ensure an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect 2. Engage students in active use of criteria and standards 3. Involve students in constructing commentaries in relation to peer judgements, not just awarding marks 4. Give practice in both analytic (componential) and holistic (configurational) judgements about quality 5. Facilitate dialogue around the object and quality of the review 6. Integrate self-review activities within peer review designs 7. Ensure that peer review is a regular activity and not a one-off event

42 References Boud, D. and Associates (2010) Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Available from Cowan, J. (2010) Developing the ability for making evaluative judgements, Teaching in Higher Education, 15(3), Nicol, D. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006), Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), Nicol, D (2009) Assessment for learner self-regulation: enhancing achievement in the first year using learning technologies, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(3), Nicol, D (2010) From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback in mass higher education, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35:5, Nicol, D (2010) The foundation for graduate attributes: developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment, QAA Scotland, Enhancement Themes. Available at: Nicol, D (2011) Developing students ability to construct feedback, QAA Scotland, Enhancement Themes. Available at Nicol, D (in press), Resituating feedback from the reactive to the proactive. In D. Boud and L. Malloy (Eds) Effective Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: understanding it and doing it well, Routledge UK Roscoe, R. & Chi, M. (2008) Tutor learning: the role of explaining and responding to questions, Instructional Science, 36, Sadler, D.R (2010) Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35:5,

43 Examination of module and course approval documents Rare to find a learning outcome of the following types: At the end of this module: …you will be able to evaluate critically the quality and/or impact of your own work …you will be able to evaluate critically the quality and impact of the work produced by others see

44 Questions and Discussion

45 Example 2: Biochemistry labs Peer Project case study Biochemistry: third-year class with 30 science students (BM310) Professor Peter Halling, University of Strathclyde Dr Sue Barnes, Learning Technology Adviser, University of Strathclyde

46 BM310: Biochemistry labs Students do 3 labs in groups of 4 – produce shared results on spreadsheet template Labs (i) Enzyme Kinetics (EK) (ii) Adenylate Kinase Equilibrium (AKE) and (iii) Fat Analysis (FA) Individually produce their own interpretation Lab report format comprises a set of questions to answer Question types – analysis of data, judge significance of results, do calculations, suggest an explanation (simple and complex, where other explanations possible) Online learning environment: PeerMark part of Turnitin suite

47 Aims of Biochemistry pilot To ensure that students actively engage with, process and use teacher feedback To develop students own skills in making evaluative judgements and in producing feedback Study possible because teacher had been producing feedback for many years on labs – saw this feedback data as a potential reusable resource

48 BM310: Biochemistry labs Assessment and feedback – a summary Wrote three lab eports Got feedback and mark from academic on one (FAT) Got feedback from fellow students on other two (EK and AKE) Gave feedback on two reports written by fellow students Was given a mark for the quality of feedback on one of these two reports

49 Scaffolded peer review task Three conditions of support for peer review task: Menu of Feedback Comments (MFC) e.g. You are confusing the meaning of retention times and areas – retention times tell you nothing about whether a reaction is proceeding. Its only the areas that tell you whether the concentrations are still changing Menu of Feedback Questions (MFQ) e.g. Have they understood the link with increased pH of the borate promoting full ionization of nitrophenol to the yellow nitrophenolate anion? No menu (NM) – must produce comments un-aided.

50 Evaluation 1. Analysis of quality of feedback comments provided to peers under the 3 different scaffolding conditions: this involved coding the students feedback provision 2. Survey asking students about their experiences [Only selected data reported here]

51 Findings Analysis of students feedback on work of peers Initial results show that the MFQ (feedback questions) led to better quality feedback comments than the MFC (feedback comments) No Menu condition not significantly different from MFQ or MFC conditions. However, further research needed as effects might be due to difficulty of questions and have not tested pairings of students for reviews.

52 Findings Survey responses: students reports All reported that reviewing engaged them in comparing peers work with own work and with the menu template (MFQ or MFC). Most made a physical comparison. Reported that MFQ made them think more than MFC and were more helpful for their understanding Were less happy about the NM condition

53 Findings: MFC versus MFQ The teachers feedback comments help me understand the basic point to the assignments, however the questions allowed me to understand the assignment better as I had to research the answers myself and this allowed me to gain a better understanding of the topic I prefer the questions provided from the AK equilibrium because it made me think more about the right answers and it allowed me to write my own comments using the questions as guidance. Having feedback comments from the Enzyme kinetics made it too easy to just copy and paste previous feedback comments in and I did not understand what some of the feedback comments referred to.

54 Findings survey: No Menu (NM) condition NM condition had mixed results as some students claimed that without any external input difficult to go beyond the ideas they had for their own work. Without teacher support we only know what we answered – our perspective Without the teacher feedback we lose an important area of the question we may not have known was even a requirement to answer Highlights value of having an external reference point when providing feedback

55 Interpretation Students engage with teacher feedback while also developing their evaluative skills to question others work. Teachers feedback on the peer review helps develop students own feedback skills. Implementation in a science discipline where feedback might differ - about accuracy as well as quality of judgement Addresses issue that use of teacher feedback leads to scripted responses (Boud, 2012). Enables feedback to become a reusable resource.

56 Questions and Discussion



59 Problems with feedback as telling Research shows that students learn through reflective knowledge building not through information receipt (Phillips, 1995) No evidence that delivery of more teacher-feedback, on its own, improves learning [despite Black and Wiliam, 1998)] Feedback must be adapted to students prior knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978: Orsmond & Merry, 2010) and to current level of understanding. The feedback paradox! Does not directly develop students capacity to evaluative and judge the quality of their own work and that of others.

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