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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.

How to approach feedback?

Approach feedback as a tool to use for your personalised learning and development. Below are some questions and considerations to bear in mind when interpreting your feedback: 

  • Make sure you are thorough and read / listen to all elements of feedback. Is there anything you do not understand?  
  • It is okay to ask questions! Your marker will also receive important information from your questions, as they will be able to identify where their feedback perhaps could be clearer.  
  • A useful way to interpret feedback is to link it to the assessment criteria and identify how your work maps into these categories. Is there an area you did particularly well at? Or another area where you did not achieve the standard you expected? These observations will be key to inform your learning and development plan.  
  • Finally, consider: What is your role as active participant in the feedback process? Think of feedback as the beginning of a dialogue and a prompt for action. 

The language of feedback

Language and terminology can sometimes obscure the meaning of feedback. Clarifying common terms can be a key first step to interpreting feedback.  

Reflect: Are there recurring terms used in feedback and / or marking criteria that you find inaccessible or confusing? A good idea is to make a list based on your experience of feedback and start building your personal glossary of assessment terms.  

What sources can you use to answer your questions? A good starting point would be a discussion  with your Academic Tutor or consultation with Study Advice. 

Below there are some resources that include explanations of common terms in assessment and feedback: 

  • Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills can be a useful framework to make sense of feedback terminology:

Pyramid scheme with the list of lower order to higher order cognitive skills, according to Bloom: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create.

Connecting different elements of feedback

Feedback may be a combination of separate elements, which offer slightly different qualities of information and reflection opportunities.  

For example, the most common components of feedback on written assignments are:  

  1. General comments or overview: these appear usually in a separate box as standalone text or sometimes at the beginning or end of an assignment. They usually provide the general impression of the marker, a summary of the assignment’s strengths and areas for development, and key feedforward advice. 
  2. In-text comments: these are more specific notes on areas of the work. They may provide concrete examples that illustrate some of the general comments. They may, however, introduce new feedback content, usually more practical in nature. The frequency of similar comments is a key indicator of habitual practice that may require addressing. It is, therefore, useful, not only to read these, but also to categorise and try to identify recurrent patterns in your work.  
  3. Rubrics: these are marking schemes that map into the assessment criteria used to derive the mark awarded. They provide generic descriptors against which your work has been classified. It is useful to explore how these categories match against the individualised comments: which types of practice contributed to achieving a particular standard? 

A useful strategy is to try and identify links between the different feedback formats. For example, is there an in-text comment that illustrates a general feedback point? 

Make the most of your feedback by looking at these connections among different feedback elements. They usually work in a complementary way. 

► Think: what elements of feedback would you expect in an oral presentation assignment? What would you expect to learn from each of these and how could they inform each other?