Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

Further to my post of April 19th, I put my idea’s of formative feedback into action. Yesterday the group of 2nd years whom I am teaching in a module on ‘Group care’ participated in some formative/peer feedback. The module is intense, and runs over 2 weeks, so there is little room to go away and reflect. Yesterday (day 6 out of 9) the group came in with some work they had already prepared. I had asked them to consider the essay title and spend some time planning (using bullet points at the very least) what were the important aspects to include in their assignments. The intention was that this would give me a chance to see how they are consolidating their learning, and whether they were engaging in deep level learning or surface learning (Biggs 1999). I mixed up the group and separated them into 6 groups of 3, and instructed them to engage in a kind of ‘timed talk’ where they each had a 20 minute slot to share their ideas with their 2 colleagues and recieve feedback and engage in idea sharing. The only rules were that feedback had to be respectful and constructive.  Myself and a colleague floated round the room, joining in groups as required (I put Chrissi’s ‘flag’ idea into action and it worked well!) we were able to answer questions, provide clarification and listen to some of the discussion that was taking place.

The intention was to ‘probe students’ knowledge as it is being constructed, so that any misunderstandings can be set right… to do this requires a climate where students feel free to admit error’ (Biggs 1999 p75). I felt as though the session was incredibly productive. The groups worked well together; they asked for help when needed; individuals went away with a clearer idea of how to approach their essays; and we gained some insight into what they are grasping and what they are struggling with. At the end of the session I asked the students verbally to give feedback on how well they thought it worked, and they were all very positive. I am conscious that they are completing the module evaluation tomorrow so didn’t want to overevaluate with them. I’m not sure how well they each took it in turns to discuss their work – I got the feeling that mostly the group had a general discussion. If I repeat the exercise I think I might get the person who’s turn it is to be interviewed by the other two about their thoughts, then it means each individual gets the same proportion of time to discuss their work/thoughts. (A1; A3; A4; K2; K5; V2)

Biggs J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. OU Press; Buckingham.


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Holding up the mirror… thoughts around my first observation

I recorded some thoughts about how I felt my first observation had gone – Chrissi came to observe me delivering a session to a small group of 3rd years on reflection. These are my post-observation musings, recorded before I had recieved feedback from Chrissi:

Chrissi’s feedback mirrored many of my own thoughts, which in itself was encouraging, as it means that I am able to consider the way I work in a critical manner. Ramsden suggests that in the selection and appointment of teaching staff a ‘lively interest in improving teaching through reflection and action’ is one of the three imperative criteria that prosepective staff must be able to meet (Ramsden 2005, p216). On the whole she felt that it was a good session, and that I came accross as relaxed and friendly. She pointed out the faux pas that I made right at the start, when I told the class (cringingly) that I didn’t know much about the topic. This really isn’t true, and I felt the words tumbling out of mouth as I spoke them. (K1)What I wanted to get accross to the group was that it wasn’t a specific topic I had taught before. I’m not sure why I felt the need to share this – probably because I was delivering the session on behalf of a poorly colleague, so I wanted to cover myself in case it didn’t go to plan and I came across sounding like I didn’t know what I was talking about! This brings to mind Kembers continuum (1997, cited in Light and Cox 2001) where conceptions of teaching are categorised under five dimensions – from the teacher centred/content-oriented through to the student centred/ learning-oriented conception. Realising that as teachers we are not expected to be the fonts of all knowledge, spouting forth to a silent and pasive audience has been one of the most liberating and enlightening aspects of this module for me. So why did I say that to the students..?! They are equally responsible for their learning, as long as we provide the right conditions and I believe the session provided those.


The main area for discussion between Chrissi and I was around the facilitation of group work. I use a lot of group work in my teaching (A1;A2) , and Chrissi asked some pertinent questions and made some helpful suggestions. One perpetual issue I have is how much to ‘stand over’ or interact with groups once I have set them a task to do – I want to give them the space to develop thoughts and speak freely, but equally I don’t want them to get bored, go off the point or misunderstand the task. Jaques and Salmon (2007) provide numerous leadership tactics, acknowledging that the tutor has an important role in creating a secure environment with an open and trusting atmosphere where individual contribution is valued and people do not have to fear making a fool of themselves. However, although they address interactions with student groups, and in particular verbal interaction, including effective questioning, they do not suggest how to overcome the issue of ducking in and out of groups, of physical proximity. Chrissi suggested a simple flag system, where a group member raises the flag if they require the help of a tutor. I am going to implement this during my next module. (A4)

During the session I used PowerPoint and previous to it taking place I had asked students via Blackboard to read the capter out of Jennifer Moons book A handbook of reflective and experiential learning, informing the group it was available as an e-book. I didn’t explicitly ask who had read the chapter – perhaps I could have carried out a short quiz based on the chapter, to see if anybody had indeed read it? I use PowerPoint in most of my lectures, but am conscious not to use too many slides – the phrase’death by PowerPoint’ springs to mind! I would like to explore the use of other technologies that I am learning about within the PGCAP such as webinars, clickers, blogs, wiki’s and so on. (K4)

In addition, Chrissi commented that I should have spent more time feeding back on the group activity to encourage the students, thus demonstrating appreciation to groups for the work they had done and providing some formative feedback. This is something I feel I am usually quite good at, and agree that I didn’t facilitate or provide as thorough feedback as I normally do, so shall be conscious in the future to try and ensure there is enough. (A3)

Jaques D and Salmon G (2007) 4th Edition Learning in Groups: A handbook for face-to-face and online environments: Routledge; Oxon.

Kember D (1997) A reconceptualisation of the research into university academics’ conceptins of teaching Learning and Instruction 7 (3): 255-75 in Light and Cox (2001) Learning and Teaching in higher education: the reflective professional Sage; London.
Ramsden P (2005) 2nd edition Learning to teach in higher education; Routledge Falmer, Oxon.
Light and Cox (2001) Learning and Teaching in higher education: the reflective professional Sage; London.

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I am in the middle of planning a module (‘Group Care’) that will be delivered in May. The colleague I am working with has also done the PGCAP and is enthusiastic about trying to do things in a slightly different way if it will benefit the students. We have decided to introduce a formal formative feedback session within the module as this is lacking in many of our modules yet ‘it is only when such diagnostic assessment regularly occurs that a teacher and student can check what learning is taking place’ (Fry at al, 2000 p306). We are going to give the students some time to do a piece of work, then to get in groups of four and take it in turns to share their work and then recieve peer feedback from the others in their group. We will float around, and so be able to contribute to the feedback that is being offered and clear up any difficulties and then we will hold a plenary at the end. The piece of work will ultimately be related to their assignment, so there is additional motivation for the students to engage in the task, but the exercise will take place 2/3 of the way through the module, so we can get a clearer idea of whether they are understanding the module content, and if they are starting to process, analyse and assimilate their learning. Biggs (1999) refers to this as ‘peer directed activity’ in teaching and learning, and suggests that within this type of activity the role of peers becomes increasingly important, but that the teacher retains control during the feedback sessions and in orchestrating conclusions.

Biggs J (1999) Teaching for quality learning at university SRHE and OU Press; Bucks.

Fry H, Ketteridge S and Marshall S (2000) A Handbook of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Enhancing Academic Practice Kogan Page; London.

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In memory of an inspiring young doctor who mused about life & death through her terminal cancer illness. Her husband, Chris now keeps the page updated.


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