When we talk about ‘Assessment and feedback’ we are often linking a set of feedback to an individual assessment. By doing this we create a separate feedback cycle for each piece of work, or taught module. This opens up the student journey to inconsistency in advice, experience and therefore progress across the different modules in their programme.
For feedback to be really effective in stimulating and sustaining a cycle of academic development for a student, it has to place the student’s own position at the heart of the process. So rather than thinking about a module leader having thirty sets of feedback to give, we should be thinking about whether those thirty individual students have the tools they need to take that feedback and use it properly. While two students who make the same mistake in an essay might receive similar feedback, the steps each should take to improve might be very different. With students often taught by many academics over the course of their degree, not every essay marker will be in a position to contextualise feedback for each student within their personal academic development.
The question is, how can we make our feedback process take into account each student’s whole academic journey, rather than just a single assignment, without creating a massive burden for the few academics who do see a student’s progress across the whole of their degree?
This is where we can explore new ways of delivering feedback, considering the part Professional Services can play in this. The need for high quality guidance and feedback from teaching staff will not diminish, but we also need to provide students with the support to draw those connections across their modules. This has to come at the right time to inform their study, rather than to just review their progress.
An academic support officer role can support this, by helping students to understand their feedback, translating general expectations into individual objectives, supporting them throughout their academic development and helping to assess their next steps. By assigning academic support officers to students, we can bridge the gap between one set of feedback and the next, creating an overarching feedback cycle which ensures that that good and effective feedback is consistent across modules, and feeds into an overarching structure for student-led development.