Using assignment feedback

As a Personal Tutor, you have an important role to play in supporting your tutees’ academic progress. Helping students understand the purpose and role of feedback is a key part of the role. You could use your second meeting of the year with both first and second year tutees, for example, to encourage reflection on assignment feedback received up to that point. Comparing performance within different modules and across different assessment tasks can provide a helpful starting point for tutees to consider the more practical implications of this feedback – in particular it can prompt reflections on their own strengths, and help them make plans, where appropriate, to change or adapt their approaches to future assessed tasks.

Using feedback to enhance performance is a valuable graduate skill and offering an opportunity will be appreciated by all your tutees – no matter their level of achievement. Remember that you have set the task of helping your tutees make sense of their feedback (not the mark) – you will be talking in general terms rather than discussing the academic content.

Another important factor to bear in mind is that much feedback relies, necessarily, on generalisations and abstractions. For example, students might read that an assignment was ‘too descriptive’, ‘insufficiently critical’, ‘in need of a clearer structure’ etc. A further potential area for dialogue, then, is in unpacking these terms and checking what the student understands by them.

As with discussions about study practices more generally, it’s a good idea to use more open questions which allow for more personal, contextualised and nuanced accounts to emerge.

Some example open questions to help initiate a dialogue:

‘How have you found the assignments for different modules so far?’

‘You did better in module A than you did in module B. What do you put that down to?’

‘Have you noticed any patterns in your feedback – both about what you’re doing well and what you might want to improve?’

‘In light of your feedback so far, are there any changes you would like to make to how you approach to future assessment tasks?’

‘A couple of pieces of feedback ask you to take a ‘more critical approach’ to your writing. What do you understand by this term? What could you do to help yourself develop a more critical approach?’

The LLI’s Transitions Toolkit provides further questions and prompts to help facilitate constructive conversations about feedback with your students.