Teaching & Learning


Transforming feedback practices

Short bite-sized videos from assessment expert, Professor David Boud's Education Conference keynote, in which he inspired colleagues to transform assessment and feedback at UCL.


18 July 2022

At the 2022 UCL Education Conference, delegates were joined online by Professor David Boud, Alfred Deakin Professor and Foundation Director of the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning

The keynote has been broken down into short videos to share his ideas around the future of feedback, the role of students in feedback processes and how courses can be designed to effectively use feedback. 

This case study may include personal opinions that are not aligned with current UCL guidance and policy

Just got 2 minutes? Jump to UCL support for module and programme design.  


Assessment and learning 

Assessment must contribute to students’ learning; it gives a message to students about what is really important. 

Do you see assessment as an integral part of student learning?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86404


Shifting feedback from focusing on the input (what teachers do) to the output (what students do) 

Prof Boud suggests a move from thinking of feedback as something that is done to the students by teachers (an input to students), towards a notion of feedback which is about what students do with it (focusing on the output).

Is feedback something teachers provide to students?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86406


Mark justification is not feedback

When we give feedback, we often run two separate ideas together: marking the work against standards and telling the students (grade justification); and enabling the student to move forward. The former is backward looking, the other about where they go from here. Only the latter can be considered feedback, according to Prof Boud. 

What is the difference between ‘grade justification’ and ‘feedback’?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86428

Focusing feedback on discrepancies between students’ self-assessment and the teacher’s assessment 

Classic approach

A student produces a piece of work and the teacher identifies what they’ve done well and not so well.

Prof Boud’s approach

With the students, he first identifies the features of a good piece of work. Together with their submission, the students self-assess against these criteria. Prof Boud then focuses on commenting on the areas where there is a discrepancy between the students’ and his assessment. 

Can you give an example of how to give feedback?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86407


Students assessing their own work 

Assessment should equip students to make judgements about their own learning. 

How do we help build our students' ability to judge their own work?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86405


Providing feedback to large cohorts 

Example of a big course (1500 students) where feedback is in focus. Tutors provide audio feedback on six occasions, which allows them to track changes and improvements during the course. 

How can you provide effective feedback to very large cohorts?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86407


Audio and video feedback

Students appreciate the personal touch of audio and video feedback (using the student’s name, talking directly to them). Prof Boud suggests that these types of feedback are very worthwhile. 

What do you think about audio and video feedback?

Local Media Widget Placeholder https://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86434


Impact of receiving feedback

Receiving feedback is not just a cognitive process; it also impacts on students emotionally. So we have to consider that when providing feedback.

Is the impact of feedback mainly intellectual? 

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86426


Decoupling grades from feedback

Grades can make students engage less with feedback. So it is a good idea to decouple them and give feedback first. 

Do you think grades and feedback should be decoupled?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86425


The problem with anonymous marking

There’s good evidence that anonymity helps to counter bias in marking. But it’s the opposite we need for feedback. So they work, in a sense, against each other.

When giving feedback, we need to look at the student’s trajectory, for instance by looking at the comments on a previous assignment, as this can help us determine whether the feedback is having an impact (i.e. changing the output). 

What is your opinion on anonymous marking?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86433


The danger of relying on own experiences

We need to own up to the fact that most students today are not like us. What was good enough for us is probably not good enough for students today. 

Why can’t we just continue doing what we’ve always done?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86432


Next steps: programme-level assessment and learning outcomes 

We should look at assessment on a programmatic basis, not a module by module level. We need to look more at the programme learning outcomes. We should disentangle thinking about assessment from thinking about learning in modules. 

Where do we begin this transformation of our feedback practice?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86441


Programme-level learning outcomes

Highlighting the importance of programme-level learning outcomes (and how module learning outcomes should relate to these). 

How do you understand the relationship between module and programme learning outcomes?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86402


Designing courses with feedback as the focus

Feedback should not be seen as an add-on. Rather we need to design our courses with feedback in mind right from the start. Feedback is one of only few places where we can adjust our courses in relation to differences between students.

How do you propose centring feedback when designing modules and programmes?

Local Media Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/86409

Designing a programme or module at UCL 

Get support from the Programme Design unit to design or re-design your academic programme or module(s). 

Last updated: 6 June 2024