December 17, 2010

Who says we give no feedback?

According to the highly debated and recently published Elsevier report, HvA was rated rather low on a number of issues. One of those was on the apparent lack of feedback from teachers to students. I would like to comment on that, and would LOVE to hear from the students themselves what they think about this - please, please, please comment on this blog and let me know...!
Well, here goes - Last year I was teaching at the HES and correcting endless numbers of portfolios - yes, true this was in the Dutch stream, so perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here, but in any case, my many students had to hand in a portfolio composed of many different writing assignments. And I spent hours going over each one, making comments in the sidelines - telling the students what they could improve and why this or that assignment was graded as it was. And do you know what happened? Almost no one showed up to collect their portfolios! I worked like crazy, provided very specific detailed feedback - and once the students received their grades, they had 'heard enough' - and didn't want any feedback at all.
So, my feeling is that the only 'feedback' that students want - on the whole - is to know why they failed, often putting us teachers into a defensive and uncomfortable position...
That's my feedback - Any comments?


  1. I think it is true what you are saying. I do want to know my grade and when i know my grade i dont have to know any feedback.

  2. Well then I wonder what the students who answered the Elsevier survey meant when they said they wanted feedback? Did they just want answers for tests - and fast? Is that feedback?

  3. The need for feedback usualy depends on the grade and the satisfaction with the grade, if a student who his/her English is at an average level and they get a 7 they are satified with that grade and they don't need feedback. Now if they get a 4 they have a need to improve them selves thus want feedback.

  4. Oh, ok. Now I get it... Feedback = low grade. Sorry, I'm a bit slow here... But what about homework - we assign homework and don't always have time or feel a need to give feedback on that - is that ok?

  5. I believe you can’t generalize ‘Feedback’. As the anonymous poster said, students feel the need to receive feedback on failures and not when they achieved the grade that satisfies them (even if they don’t know HOW they got it).
    With homework it’s a different issue because homework can be divided into non-mandatory, mandatory, writing an essay and making exercises et cetera.
    Each of these requires more or less feedback than others. From my own experience, I’ve seen that students wish to receive feedback on homework that required more effort (e.g. writing essay’s) than homework that involved making exercises.

    Another thing that might be essential for students is how easy their teacher can give feedback. Does the teacher want them to visit them on an inconvenient moment? Is feedback through e-mail possible? Does the teacher have consultation hours yes or no?
    Reason for me to ask certain teachers for feedback is because I know that I’ll be getting feedback that really improves my work on the next assignment. And some teachers I wish to skip because, well, they don’t.

    I think feedback should be something the student wishes to receive and not something the teacher is obligated to give.

  6. Noel, Thanks for the candid and detailed comment re-types of feedback, and good point also re-consultation hours! Very good idea - I'm going to implement it myself next semester! Thanks so much for the feedback...

  7. Good news to any comment posters - I discovered 'the culprit' regarding the disappearing comments! - The spam filter didn't like Noel (sorry, Noel) but now I know this I will check my spam box regularly...

  8. I completely agree with Noël on this; the need for feedback is related to the amount of effort one needs to put into a certain assignment.
    I am the second Anonymous, for some reason I was unable to login that day.

  9. So, Joel, (no longer anonymous but still with a blogger profile that cannot be seen by mere mortals), thanks for the notes and for re-posting... Tell me - which of the courses did you take that gave you assignments you wanted feedback on? :) Details are welcome! And - did you get the feedback you needed?