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Assessment and feedback

Study Advice guide on how to approach, interpret, and use feedback on your assessments, as well as how to be constructive in your feedback to others.

Purpose of feedback

You may hear from many sources that feedback is super important! But why is that?

Key functions of feedback include: 

  • To justify the mark awarded 
  • To indicate what was done well and where there was room for improvement 
  • To suggest pathways to development (feed forward)

This feed forward function of feedback is what makes it a key tool for future development.

Forms of feedback

There will be a wide range of feedback opportunities and contexts for feedback during your study. It is important to recognise feedback and make the most of every opportunity for development.   

Here are some forms of feedback that you are likely to encounter: 

  • Oral vs written: Written comments are widely recognised and used as an effective medium of feedback. Oral feedback, however, can also be extremely valuable, as it may be in direct response to a question or part of a conversation (therefore more tailored and targeted). And remember, sometimes feedback on assignments may be given in audio format. It is, therefore, crucial to recognise that feedback can come in many forms, none of which should be overlooked! 

  • Formal vs informal: Formal feedback accompanies your returned marked assignment. It is the most visible form of feedback, usually written, sometimes oral. We tend to pay attention to it, especially with regards to the mark awarded.  

Despite having good reason to focus on formal feedback, there is a wealth of benefit in recognising informal feedback as well. Informal feedback can occur in class, in a tutorial meeting, when having coffee with classmates, during a field visit... There are countless opportunities for informal feedback. If you are tuned in, you will be able to perceive and act upon these stimuli. For example, what type of questions did you receive after a presentation from the audience? How did your experiment go at the lab? Did your suggestions at a group meeting stir up discussion? All of the above are situations where you can glean reactions and reception of your ideas and performance.  
And remember, our mistakes are opportunities for lessons learnt! 

  • ​​​​​​​Feedback as part of the assessment preparation process: Usually, feedback comes at the back of an assessment. Sometimes, however, response to feedback is an integral part of the assessment itself: students can be asked to use comments on draft work and justify improvements they made to reach their final output (for example, in project or studio work in creative disciplines such as Art or Architecture, among others). In such contexts, the feedback does not follow the assessment but becomes a key part of study and preparatory work.  

This shows that application of feedback can be a valuable skill in itself that plays a central role in authentic assessments, linked to real-life contexts. Incorporating feedback in work is a key employability skill! 

Who is involved? Contexts and processes of feedback.

The marking process is the most obvious context of feedback.

The marker will assess your work against set criteria, and will apply marks and offer formal feedback based on these criteria. The marker may be the same person as the module convenor or another member of teaching staff who had an active role in the design of the assessment. 
Subsequently, a second member of academic staff comes to review whether marking and feedback standards have been met and the range of marks is fair and consistent; this practice is called moderation. It usually does not include new feedback but may do if needed 
Check this outline of the process flow of assessment and feedback. 

You will have an opportunity to discuss feedback in a holistic way with your Academic Tutor and identify a leaning plan. 
Check this toolkit with useful advice on how to prepare for your meetings with your tutor.:

See also: Reflective practice and planning your learning


Project work and supervision: during your study you are likely to undertake independent projects, such as a dissertation / thesis and other creative or applied projects; these require decision making, planning and long-term commitment. 

 Application of feedback is integral to the project process, from the initial design stage. The allocated supervisor or adviser for your project is your key contact for support step by step. Their role is to advise on decision making during the project. Dissertation supervisors may offer some formative feedback on a sample of written work but their feedback at earlier stages of the project is equally important. For creative projects, producing drafts and gauging initial reactions by advisor or peer comments is invaluable and would be expected to be incorporated in the final output.  

Actively seeking feedback and the actions you take in response to comments are key for a successful project! 

In groupwork settings the team makes collective decisions and discusses ways to improve work; for example, in meetings, working side by side, editing digital shared documents, practising presentations, etc. Being exposed to alternative perspectives and sharing feedback on each other’s work provide ideal opportunities for peer support and learning by doing.

A key part of the teammate role, therefore, is to provide honest and constructive feedback. - The art of giving feedback 

You can find out more about effective group work in this Study Advice guide:

Study Advice is another channel for discussing feedback, at an individual assignment level or cumulatively.

A Study Adviser can help you learn how to decipher feedback and act on it, including deciding which steps to take, selecting relevant resources, and helping you implement your learning plan. You can find more about Study Advice at:

Have you ever asked a colleague for their opinion? How about setting up a study group, reading club, mock practise group, or discussion forum? Informal feedback from friends and colleagues is a great way to build evaluative skills and confidence. And, just like you benefit from your peers’ feedback, they may also ask for your view on their work! 

Attention, though: there are rules regarding over-collaboration – giving feedback does not mean correcting someone’s entire work or doing it for them. Check these tips on what constitutes constructive feedback in: The art of giving feedback

Reflection and self-evaluation is a key skill for academic success and beyond, in one’s life and career. In this guide, we share tips on how you can use feedback effectively and become owners of your development, through active involvement and an action-oriented approach.  

Sometimes, however, we can be our toughest critics! Read this Life Tools series blog post for perspective and tips to help avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism. 

Useful feedback can be found in unexpected places!

Can you think of another person who gave you useful feedback recently?