The following provides a first glance at a selection of the Phase 1 survey data. Due to the extensive nature of the data, not all survey items are reported here. Therefore, these data are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather, to present selected initial findings that offer insight into current practices and possible future initiatives. More detailed analyses of staff and students’ current experiences with feedback is underway and will be added to this page in the coming months.

Key takeaways

  • Students commonly complete exams at the end of the teaching period, but they may not always be receiving feedback comments that they can take forward and use in subsequent units.
  • Before submission of assessment tasks, students seek feedback comments from friends and peers almost as frequently as they do from university academic staff. However, not all students find the comments they received from university academic staff prior to submission to be useful.
  • The majority of students find the feedback comments they receive from academic staff after submission of an assessment task to be understandable, usable, and personalised. However, almost 22% of students found the comments to be lacking in detail.
  • 37% of students feel discouraged by feedback comments provided by academic staff on assessment tasks.

Method

To assess the diversity of feedback experiences of higher education students, a large-scale online survey was conducted between September 2016 and January 2017 at Monash University and Deakin University. This survey targeted staff and coursework students, and included a mix of closed and open-ended questions focusing on the types of assessment and feedback used in Semester 2, 2016 at Monash University, and Trimester 3, 2016/2017 at Deakin University.

Survey items were designed through consultation with experts in the field, and by modifying items from existing instruments, including the 15-item Feedback Questionnaire (Adcroft, 2010), the Teachers’ Conceptions of Feedback Inventory (Harris & Brown, 2008), the Student Conceptions of Feedback Inventory (Version 3) (Irving & Peterson, 2007), the Assignment Feedback Questionnaire (Lizzio & Wilson, 2008), the Feedback Practices survey (Pereira, Simao, & Barros, 2016) and the Y1Feedback Staff Survey (Y1Feedback, 2016).

Participants

Valid survey responses were received from 4920 staff and students. Descriptive information about the demographics of university students and staff are provided below.

Data presented below provide an overview of student and staff experiences with assessment feedback at Monash University and Deakin University. Key indicators include: diversity of assessment types, sources of feedback, and perceptions of usefulness.

Findings

Diversity of assessment and feedback types

To gauge the diversity of assessment types, staff with assessment responsibilities (i.e. those who were involved with teaching or marking assessment tasks at the time of the survey) were asked what type of assessment tasks were used in their units. As can be seen below, students were generally required to complete written essays, oral / presentations, or short quizzes and tests during the middle of the teaching period, and exams or written essays at the end of the teaching period.

Percentage breakdown of types of assessment tasks used at the middle and end of the teaching period, according to staff with assessment responsibilities.

Staff with assessment responsibilities were also asked what types of performance-related information they provided to students after submission on various types of assessment tasks. As shown below, the majority of assessment tasks were assessed using both grades and comments, with the exception of exams, short quizzes and tests.

Percentage breakdown of types of performance information provided to students on various assessment tasks, according to staff with assessment responsibilities.

When taken together, these results highlight that many students are completing exams at the end of the teaching period, but are not necessarily receiving feedback that they can then take forward into subsequent units.

Sources of feedback

Students were asked to indicate who had provided them with feedback comments before and after submission of their assessment tasks. As shown in the graph below, the most common sources for comments, both before and after submission, were university academic staff, friends, peers, and family members. It is interesting to note that, before submission, students engaged in feedback conversations with friends and peers almost as much as they did with university academic staff.

Percentage breakdown of sources of feedback comments before and after submission of assessment tasks, as reported by students.

Students who had sought comments from university academic staff before submission were asked how useful that feedback had been. Over 50% of students found the comments to be ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ helpful. However, 46.6% of students reported finding the comments to be ‘moderately helpful’, ‘slightly helpful’, or ‘not at all helpful’. These results suggest that teaching staff could be doing more to improve the feedback they provide before submission.

Percentage breakdown of students’ ratings of the usefulness of feedback provided by university academic staff before submission of an assessment task.

Perceptions of the feedback

Students who had received comments back on at least one assessment task were asked to think of the most recent comments they had received and rate their level of agreement with various statements. The results are presented below.

Percentage breakdown of students’ level of agreement with various aspects of the feedback comments they received on a recent assessment task.

The majority of students agreed or strongly agreed that the feedback comments they received were understandable, detailed, and personalised. However between 8% – 22% of students disagreed or strongly disagreed with these four statements. Similarly, most students (72.4%) reported that they will use, or had already used, the feedback comments, but 12.4% (n = 683) disagreed, strongly disagreed, or could not judge. It is particularly worrying that 21.7% of students disagreed or strongly disagreed when asked if their feedback was detailed, as feedback should be detailed enough to support students in improving their performance.

Students were also asked how often the feedback they received during their studies discouraged them (see below). While the majority (61.1%) said ‘never’ or ‘rarely’, 37.4% stated that it discouraged them ‘frequently’, ‘occasionally’ or ‘always’. The 1692 students who answered this way were mainly comprised of on-campus (85%), full-time (84%), domestic (66.2%) students, who were completing undergraduate (67.1%) or Masters degrees (23.9%) from the faculties of Business and Law (27.8%), Arts and Education (26.5%) or Health (23.3%).

Percentage breakdown of students’ opinion regarding how often the feedback they receive in their studies discourages them.