Teaching & Learning


Embedding feedback, evaluation, and dialogue in a module

Dr Alecia Carter, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, on various ways to encourage iterative feedback and a feedforward approach into teaching.

13 March 2024

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Students’ learning improves most when they integrate feedback through formative exercises. I have embraced this approach in my modules, providing not only my own feedback, but giving students the skills and tools to feedback constructively on their peers’ work.  

There are many ways to incorporate a feedforward approach in teaching, ranging from small pre-tutorial investment to large investment, and I outline a few here.  

Help students to understand marking

A highly useful feed-forward strategy asks students to use the marking rubric to mark example coursework in a group (Baker & Zuvela, 2013). In this task, students read the marking rubric and example coursework ahead of a tutorial, before working in small groups to mark an example in the tutorial. Students then report back to explain why they’ve awarded the particular grade, with reference to the marking rubric, and to offer what improvements could be made to increase the proposal’s grade. This activity starts to develop skills in providing feedback and direction in how to avoid the same ‘mistakes’ in their own coursework. 

Encourage students to share ideas early

Feedback doesn’t have to be on an entire draft, and early feedback can be more useful. For example, I ask students to provide the title and research question for their coursework, submitted on Moodle. My aim is to encourage the students to start their research early in the term and do initial reading about their subject(s) of interest to develop their understanding of the content. I provide written feedback on all submissions through Moodle, pointing students to resources they might find helpful and common pitfalls for particular topics.  

Peer feedback

Formal peer feedback can come through a peer assessment activity organised through Moodle (Moodle has a Peer Assessment Tool built in). Peer assessment is a task that successfully engages students and improves their own performance through both providing and receiving feedback (Huisman et al. 2019). This activity also stays small: students write and submit a 200-word abstract of their coursework and then provide feedback on two other (anonymised) students’ submissions. Students’ responses to this task are always positive, and the feedback that I get is that this is the task is the most useful feedforward activity of the module. 

Speak to students

Feedback doesn’t have to be written, and quick, targeted oral feedback can be useful. Tutorials can be used as coursework triage sessions, to address students’ queries about their research and coursework direction. Students are particularly grateful for this kind of quick, specific input closer to the submission deadline. 

Remember that these ideas are not exhaustive, and other approaches may work better for different types of coursework. And they don’t have to be implemented all at once! Start small and use your experience to feed forward into your own teaching practice. 

Alecia's top tip

Start small and start early.

Providing a few sentences of personalised feedback on a tentative coursework title / idea for an essay argument in the first half of term gets students thinking about their coursework early, gives them time to integrate the feedback, and empowers students to direct their own learning.  

Further reading

Baker, D.J. and Zuvela, D., 2013. Feedforward strategies in the first-year experience of online and distributed learning environments. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), pp.687-697. 

Huisman, B., Saab, N., van den Broek, P. and van Driel, J., 2019. The impact of formative peer feedback on higher education students’ academic writing: a Meta-Analysis. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(6), pp.863-880.