Making feedback work for you

Linda Moses-Allison shares how we can positively reflect on and actively apply feedback to make progress

I tend to find that the start of an academic year or semester is a little like New Year’s Eve. We all start with the best of intentions about how we can do things better in the months ahead. This is true of staff as well as students! To look forward and plan how to make things better, we also need to look back to work out what it is exactly we want to improve on and how we might do that. If you have ever written any reflective pieces of work, you will find the method of feedback/feedforward familiar. It is a process of looking back, analysing what needs addressing and then working out how you will do that in future.  

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As students you will receive feedback for each piece of assessed work that you submit. Watch this video about working with feedback for some suggested strategies you can employ.   Here are three simple strategies to make the most of your feedback. 

Be positive 

Some feedback will no doubt be positive and enjoyable to read. We may feel less happy about other aspects. A lot of effort and time goes into assignments so it is understandable that critical feedback can hit us hard when we first read it over. Try to remember that feedback is aimed at developing our skills, knowledge and understanding rather than intended to upset us. What we then do with feedback is what makes the difference and helps us to progress.  

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Identify your priorities

Certain feedback is easy to understand and act upon. If you often get feedback about poor referencing, it’s clear where to find guidance for that. That said, it is helpful to check whether comments about referencing are purely about formatting or whether they might also relate to the quality of sources you’re using.

Sometimes it is hard to work out how to apply feedback that seems specific to one assignment to future work. If you receive feedback about your subject knowledge, for example, it could be that you might not have understood the question; that you haven’t read widely enough; or that you need to develop your note making skills. These are all areas of development that translate across multiple assignments. Sometimes going back to the assessment question, learning outcomes and marking criteria can be useful in unpicking what you need to do.

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Talk to your allies

If you feel stuck talk to your module tutor and prepare what questions you might want to ask. Plus, peers are a great source of support. Although you need to be careful about working too closely together on the same work, informal chats about a topic or proofreading from someone not on your course can be a useful sounding board. Not all feedback needs to come from assessed work.  Consider informal feedback from presentations or formative feedback too. Don’t overlook the significance of formative feedback that is designed to help you develop and achieve more in your summative submission.  You might also want to contact skills@cumbria to explore how you might apply feedback from previous submissions to current assignments to support your learning development.

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Finally, access our feedback portfolio to use a structured plan to consider your own priorities and create SMART goals for the future.  

The Pocket Study Skills book Using Feedback to Boost Your Grades is also a quick read that offers some good practical advice:

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