The University of Sheffield Principles of Feedback

A definition of feedback

Feedback exists in any process, activity or information that enhances learning by providing students with the opportunity to reflect on their current or recent level of attainment. It can be provided individually or to groups. It can take many forms. It is responsive to the developmental expectations of particular programmes and disciplines. Detailed opportunities for the receipt of feedback by students will therefore vary across the University, and at different stages of students’ programmes.

Principle 1
Student engagement with feedback is promoted
Feedback is a two-way process, an on-going dialogue between students and lecturers. In order for feedback to work for students, they need to engage with it and departmental processes should support them in this.

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Principle 2
Feedback is for learning
Feedback should help students to improve their future performance as well as provide comment on work already done. Feedback should affirm what is known and offer encouragement. Feedback methods should include: written, face-to-face, (both individual and collectively), from peers, electronically via MOLE, in audio files or email. Opportunities for students to reflect on their feedback more holistically should be provided by personal tutors or elsewhere.

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Principle 3
Feedback is clearly communicated to students
Departments should provide information about the types of feedback students will receive and the dates when it is available, for all modules e.g. a schedule of formal feedback. Departments should also ensure that students are made aware of the range of informal feedback that will be provided during the course of their study.

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Principle 4
Feedback is timely

Students should receive regular feedback throughout their modules, timed to help with their final assessment. Feedback on assessed work will normally be within 3 weeks.

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Principle 5
Feedback is consistently delivered

Feedback will be delivered in an accessible and consistent manner, and will relate to module assessment criteria and learning outcomes. There will be an opportunity to view exam scripts.

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Principle 6
Feedback quality is maintained

Departments will ensure that feedback is of good quality. Student reps will be involved in the process of maintaining that quality.

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A student-facing version of these Principles is available in the downloads section of this page and should be included in student handbooks.

The Toolkit for Learning and Teaching page "Feedback" offers more information and support and examples of good practice from several departments as well as links to many resources on this topic.

QAA guidance

Indicator 9 of the QAA's Quality Code, Chapter B6 "Assessment of Students and the Recognition of Prior Learning" states:

"Institutions [should] provide appropriate and timely feedback to students on assessed work in a way that promotes learning and facilitates improvement but does not increase the burden of assessment.

In meeting the needs of students for feedback on their progression and attainment, it can be helpful to consider:

  • the desirability of providing feedback at an appropriate time in the learning process (see above paragraphs), and as soon as possible after the student has completed the assessment task;
  • specifying the nature and extent of feedback that students can expect and whether this is to be accompanied by the return of assessed work. It is important to consider the particular needs of students studying part-time and/or remotely;
  • the effective use of comments on returned work, including relating feedback to intended learning outcomes and assessment criteria, in order to help students identify areas for improvement as well as commending them for achievement;
  • the role of oral feedback, either on a group or individual basis, as a means of supplementing or replacing written feedback;
  • providing guidance about the point in the module or programme where it is no longer appropriate for a member of staff to continue providing feedback to a student on his/her work. This is normally when a student is approaching a summative assessment, such as submission of a dissertation, or handing in a coursework assignment."