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Enhancing Feedback and Feed Forward in the Digital Age

This one day conference, held on 14 April 2010 was hosted by The University of Reading, and was one of a series of national HEA-sponsored seminars.

The aim of the event was to explore a range of tools and methods for giving rapid and timely feedback in ways which stimulate and support students’ learning in the ‘digital age’. It was hoped that by attending this event participants would

i) have a greater understanding of when and how technology, such as the use of video, may be used to enhance the timeliness and effectiveness of feed-forward and feedback provision and

ii) develop a greater awareness of how technology may be used to support strategic priorities, such as enhancing innovation in teaching and learning.

Forty-eight delegates representing 14 different institutions were welcomed to the event by the University of Reading’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Rob Robson. Erica Morris, Senior Adviser for Quality Enhancement and Assessment at the HEA, then briefly outlined the work of the HEA in promoting research and evidence-based practice and explained that one outcome of the Seminar Series would be a briefing paper outlining key issues for practice.

The programme for the day was planned by Julian Park and Anne Crook to enable collaborative exploration of issues relating to feedback and feed forward, through a series of interactive activities designed to promote discussion and highlight key aspects of quality feedback. Delegates were first asked to consider the question ‘How good is my feedback now?’ by comparing their own practice to a number of quotes about experiences of feedback from staff and students at the University of Reading. This brief activity confirmed that the experience is very similar across different institutions.

There then followed a ‘round robin’ activity where delegates were organised into small groups to visit each of six ‘stations’ demonstrating the use of different approaches and technologies for supporting and enhancing feedback and feed forward. These included:

Interactive Assessment Management System (IAMS) – an online system (via Blackboard) for managing coursework that enables both administrative and academic staff to organise assignment scheduling and coursework submission. Students receive a work submission receipt by email and are able to track progress with marking.
Audio Generic Feedback using Jing – http://www.jingproject.com/
Walkthrough audio and video feedback where the discussion between tutor and student is recorded as they ‘walkthrough’ a piece of coursework, so that at a later date, when the original conversation may be fading the student can listen again to the recording
The ASSET project: audio/video feed-forward and feedback using Cam Studio and Flip Video (http://www.reading.ac.uk/asset)
Audio/video feedback using Camtasia
Personal Response systems (PRS) used to instantly survey understanding and increase active learning in class

Whilst visiting each station delegates were asked to consider the questions:

· What technologies currently exist to support feedback provision?

· Can technology enhance the quality and efficiency of my feedback?

This led to identification of a list of issues and points for further consideration:

· Diversity of feedback

· Applicability of methods

· Do students recognise feedback?

· Staff and student training

· Consistency

· How do I know I am being effective and efficient?

· How can I get students to engage with feedback?

· Interoperability

· Different types of learners and response to feedback

· Opportunities for distance learning

· Risks associated with new technologies

Delegates then worked again in small groups on a semi-hypothetical case study of their choice, to determine what formative and summative assessment would be used for the case study module, issues relating to feedback and feed forward and the technologies that would be used. Case studies that delegates could select from included:

  • Large 1st Year Biology Class
  • Practical Methods in Physics
  • MSc Microbiology Research Methods
  • Roman Republic
  • Editing the Renaissance
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Criminal Law
  • Communications at Work

A key issue for all the groups was to consider how technology could be used to keep a balance between efficiency in terms of staff time and quality of the student learning experience.

The outcome of this activity was a 2-3 minute video produced by each group which served to provide feedback for the other groups and to illustrate the ease and speed with which video feedback can be produced.

The day ended with a panel discussion. Panel members were:

Rod Cullen – Manchester Metropolitan University

Shirley Williams – University of Reading

Elizabeth Page – University of reading

Paul Orsmond – Staffordshire University

Steve Maw – University of Leeds

Julian Park – University of Reading

Discussion points included:

· How can teaching colleagues be encouraged to engage with feedback and feed forward?

· How can we help students to understand what we mean by feedback?

· How can we help students adjust to the differences in feedback provision at university in comparison with their pre-university experiences?

· Is the academic framework within which we work suitable for the changes we want to make?

· How does student-centred learning affect the teacher’s role?

· What evidence base do we have that innovative use of technology re: feedback and feed forward is actually effective?

Despite a very busy and interactive programme, delegates were extremely well ‘fed and watered’ throughout the day and there was plenty of opportunity for networking and discussion.

The event was closed at 3.30 pm by the Pro- Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, who thanked participants and organisers for a very successful, useful and enjoyable day.

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