Giving feedback

What feedback can you give to students?

This is the most asked question when it comes to the drafting stage of the reflective project. Perhaps it should come as a relief to supervisors that they are not there to correct spelling, punctuation and grammar but taking a step back and limiting feedback to asking questions to guide improvements can be more daunting. And crucially, the supevisor can only comment on one draft so the most needs to be made of this opportunity.

Make the process consistent

Having a consistency of approach for all supervisors in how students receive feedback can help a reflective project coordinator hugely as well as be reassuring to all involved. Supervisors can become nervous of overstepping the mark with help or indeed become understandably fed up by a student's lack of engagement so a feedback process as part of the reflective project timeline can really help. This page gives suggestions on how supervisors might engage with the criteria as well as a unit plan with an example of how a feedback session might go.

A summary of what the supervisor cannot do
Correct or rewrite any part of the project
Correct any spelling, punctuation, grammar, information or citations
Make or indicate big structural changes needed
Proofread any more than one draft

A summary of what the supervisor can do
Ask questions or give advice such as:
Do you notice anything here as you read it through?
Could this information go anywhere else?
What do you think? Where is your voice?
Check your notes for whether you are meeting the requirements here for citations.

Criteria based open questions

How can general questions prompt improvement in a specific criterion?
The following discussion is really useful for supervisors to have altogether before they look at their student's draft. See below for further thoughts. What questions might prompt checking for:

1. The research question staying the same throughout the essay

2. The use of credible and varied sources

3. Full understanding of the ethical impact of an idea or perspective

4. The inclusion of own ideas and solutions

5. That each paragraph has been constructed using PEEL (or REAL or SEAL)

Further thoughts

1. The research question staying the same throughout the essay

A question such as 'how might this link elsewhere?' might seem vague but it could prompt a student considering the validity of a point and whether they have gone off track. Sharp focus on criterion A in this way has repercussions for the rest of the essay.

2. The use of credible and varied sources

Again, sharp focus on criterion A. Questions such as 'Could this be clearer?' or 'Is this accurate?' where evidence is lacking or 'Do you notice anything here about the sources you have used?' when viewing a short bibliography can prompt the student to consider whether they need further research or if certain sources are indeed valid.

3. Full understanding of the ethical impact of an idea or perspective

Asking questions such as 'how have you used different perspectives?' and 'are your points balanced throughout?' can prompt the student to consider not only if they have included multiple perspectives but also whether they have assessed the strengths and weaknesses too. Again, this is Criterion A as well as Criterion B as the validity and focus on the question gets called into play.

4. The inclusion of own ideas and solutions

The simple question of 'have you a voice?' can remind the student that they must employ critical thinking skills to achieve in the highest mark criterion. Questions that prompt reflecting on how well the essay makes use of synthesis, linking and independent ideas are really useful.

5. That each paragraph has been constructed using PEEL (or REAL or SEAL)

Again, as Criterion C is so crucial, close scrutiny on the structure of each paragraph is a really useful exercise for the student. 'How have you constructed your main point here?' could lead students to look at a particularly ineffectual paragraph.

Supervisory session

Giving Formal Feedback - This session can be done really well in a remote learning context with screen sharing (providing the supervisor does not directly show the student their notes).

This session is very much about the student engaging in the process and not receiving feedback passively. It takes them through a proofreading process that they can repeat themselves with the final draft. Click here for more on proofreading and self assessment.

Preparation prior to the session: Ask students to read over their draft (especially if there has been a vacation since submission) and record thoughts on WWW (What Went Well) and EBI (Even Better If...). To differentiate, students might choose an element of each criterion that they felt went well as well as elements that could be improved on.

Top tip! Let students record the feedback session.

Have students record the feedback session that you have with them. It is understandable for students not to make the most of feedback sessions; they can take more notice of positive comments than areas they need to work on or they can easily feel overwhelmed. If they record the session, they can concentrate on just discussing their work with you and have a way of referring back to this session after it has finished.

1. Have two copies ready of the student's work (or as far as possible for Option 2): the supervisor's master copy with notes and a copy for the student to record notes from discussion. If the student has an additional format such as a presentation or a film, then they should ensure they are ready to take notes or perhaps record the session.

2. Ask student for prepared initial thoughts on their draft; perceived strengths and weaknesses, successes and limitations. Set personal objectives for how they want to improve their draft. Remind students that your feedback will not include advice on spelling, punctuation, grammar, structure or correct any citations.

3. Ask the student to read the draft out loud and pause at appropriate times with criteria based questions that may have arisen. eg. What do you think the main point of your argument is here? .... might prompt a student to hesitate and conclude 'I think my point is this... but it probably needs to be clearer'. This process can take time and it must be stressed to the students that they do not need to know the answers now but these questions are there to guide them into realising the next steps.

4. After the read through with open questions: Look at the wording of the criteria together and ask the student to talk through where they perceive the criteria based strengths and weaknesses might be.

5. Students write a bespoke checklist for the final piece. From the guided discussion, students should be able to formulate a checklist to help them towards their final project. The supervisor can have prepared a checklist in advance for their own notes and ensure through open questioning that the student has included everything needed.

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