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Providing Feedback

This policy should be read in conjunction with:

The additional information below provides further clarification in the context of the Common Awards programmes.


The basic principle behind this policy is that students should at some point receive feedback on their work for all modules. For example, if a module doesn’t include formative assessment then students will need feedback on their summatively assessed work to help them monitor their progress and identify areas of strength and weakness in their work. The rationale is thus that all assessed work provides students with the opportunity to develop their understanding of the subject area and to enhance a range of skills which will vary depending on the mode of assessment employed.

Key points to consider

When giving feedback, in whatever form, markers should consider the following:

  • Feedback is not simply what is written on assignment coversheets: it includes everything that is communicated to students individually and corporately about their work;
  • Feedback is a central part of the whole teaching process;
  • Feedback should, wherever possible, be encouraging and supportive;
  • Feedback should highlight what was good about student's work, as well as identifying problems;
  • Feedback on summative work should help students understand why they received the mark they did (including by reference to Learning Outcomes and assessment criteria);
  • Feedback should help students improve, normally by identifying specific areas they might address in future work (and not simply by explaining what they could have done better on a piece of work that they will never be doing again);
  • It can be especially helpful if feedback includes practical suggestions for strategies students can adopt when facing similar work in future;
  • More feedback is not necessarily better feedback: it is normally better to give a student a few things to focus on, rather than to overwhelm them with advice;
  • Written feedback should be legible.

The Higher Education Academy's Feedback Toolkit (2013) is a useful resource.

Expectations for TEIs: Providing feedback

All TEIs should:

  • Provide feedback at some point to each student on each module taken;
  • Provide at least some of this feedback in written form, to give both students and academic colleagues a record of the issues discussed;
  • Provide some written feedback on all summatively assessed coursework;
  • Provide feedback on all formatively assessed work in some form;
  • In instances where a formative assessment task is designed as preparation for a specific summative assessment, provide feedback in sufficient time as to allow students to benefit in that summative work;
  • Ensure that students are aware of the TEI’s approach to the provision of feedback;
  • Ensure that feedback does not breach the confidentiality of the Board of Examiners or include comparison with the work of other students by name.

Expectations for TEIs: Communicating feedback policy to students

All TEIs should ensure that the information they communicate to students about their feedback policy:

  • is written in a clear, student-facing style;
  • is communicated to students via publication in student handbooks and/or on the website or other equivalent mechanisms;
  • explains the purpose of feedback, differentiating between formative and summative assessment as appropriate. Within this, it is good practice to highlight that feedback is readily available to students and is designed to aid (and highly important for) their academic development. It is also good practice to establish that feedback will identify both strengths and weaknesses in students’ work;
  • highlights the different forms of feedback that may be made available to students (thus clarifying that feedback may not, for example, be restricted to written comments on essays);
  • includes clear information about when students can expect to receive feedback on their formative and summative work (whether in the form of a generic commitment to provide it within a certain number of weeks, or by pointing students to the timetable for feedback on specific pieces), and contains a commitment to inform students of instances when this timescale cannot be met and the reasons for this;
  • includes a brief explanation of the procedures used by the TEI to ensure the quality and timeliness of feedback;
  • is considered by the TEI’s Management Committee and any other relevant student representative groups, especially in relation to reasonable timescales for the receipt of feedback on summative work.

Provision of Feedback on Formative Assessment

TEIs are required to provide students with feedback on all formative assessment in some form. For instance:

  • feedback can be addressed to the individual student (commenting specifically on their work) or to a group of students (commenting on common strengths and weaknesses in a particular assignment);
  • it may be delivered in written form (for instance, email/annotations on essays/feedback sheets);
  • it may be delivered orally (for instance, via an in-class reflection exercise/staff moderated peer-to-peer feedback).

Examples of good practice:

  • Giving students opportunities to discuss the relevant assessment criteria being used within the TEI and to explore the implications of this for their own learning. This could include asking students to estimate the mark that should be given to their own work, or dummy sample work, or each other's work, and then discussing their assessment of them against published criteria;
  • Offering feedback on summative examination work to students attaining consistently low marks in examinations and to those who have performed uncharacteristically badly in one or more examination (as there is good reason to suppose that developmental feedback may enhance the performance of such students in the future);
  • Substituting audio-recorded feedback for written feedback (or combining audio-recorded feedback with written feedback) provided that the result is a permanent record that is easily accessible to both students and staff and is stored for use in the event of an appeal.