Blog: Don't Forget Your Feedback

I know how you feel, you just submitted various essays, reports and proposals just before the Christmas break and it already feels like the next set of deadlines are looming.

As you formulate your arguments, plough through the readings and top up on your coffee, don’t forget to look back on previous assessments and use the feedback to help you on this next piece of work.

One of the key themes that was consistently raised last year was that of the quality, and timing of feedback on assessments. As your representatives, we have constantly picked up on these issues and directed multiple efforts towards rectifying this so that you are able to receive the necessary feedback on all your hard work!

Last year, we spent a large chunk of our first Course Rep Conference asking students and academics alike to discuss the ways in which feedback is most useful.

Following this, the Students’ Union took a paper to College which suggested three principles of feedback and several recommendations for improving the speed and clarity of the feedback you receive.

This paper went through the College’s academic governance process, being passed at Academic Board, the highest academic committee at Royal Holloway, meaning all the work from last year’s Conference influenced College policy – and this year we have been encouraging the consistent implementation of this!

What does this all mean in practice?

There are several highlights in the report. The first, and biggest, is a clarification in the turnaround time between submission and receiving your glorious feedback.

The policy makes sure that all assessed work (other than formal examinations) should be returned with feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline and the deadline for the return of work should be made clear when submitting, with any changes being communicated to you as soon as possible.

The only caveat is that weekends, bank holidays and dates when the College is closed (like Christmas and Easter breaks) are not included in the working days (staff need some downtime too) and certain assessments may not come back in 20 days if there are pedagogic reasons for delaying the release, which should be clearly communicated to you.

There are now three principles that staff must work to when giving feedback on assignments, and that you should be aware of whenever you have to give feedback.

  1. Feedback can come in a variety of forms. It’s not just what you get on the paper, one-to-one chats, personal tutor meetings and any type of verbal feedback also have weight and meaning.
  2. Feedback should be clear about academic performance. You should be able to clearly see the use of marking criteria in all feedback.
  3. Feedback should be constructive. Pretty obvious to be honest. You want to know where and how you can improve, so we made sure that this is a requirement. No more lists of the things you did wrong with no explanation.

Although this policy was finalised last year, the work certainly isn’t over. This academic year we have been working with our reps from specific departments with historic problems in feedback, and those that have ‘sprung up’, to ensure that feedback is on time, effective and can be understood by students. This year, Jack your VP Education is working on adjusting assessments patterns to not only mitigate against the heightened stress near the end of terms, but also to allow for a greater time to receive, digest and improve upon feedback!

Clem Jones // President