Reflecting on feedback

by Anna Rolinska

Giving and receiving peer feedback is a big part of the EAST project and it is important that the experience is useful to all the students, both from IUG and UoG. Since it’s the IUG students who will take on the role of a feedback provider, we have devised a sequence of tasks to help them prepare for this aspect of collaboration with UoG students. We started the Constructive Feedback Task sequence on 28 July and this blog post reports on the first activity. To ease the students gently into the task as well as let them get to know each other (and familiarise them with the online learning spaces), we started with something relatively easy and personal. Namely, the first activity required that the students share their reflections on what feedback means to them and their experience in giving and receiving feedback. We used Padlet to collate the contributions and soon the online wall was full of stories and visuals representing the students’ understanding. Here is a subjective summary of some highlights and the most interesting thoughts.

Feedback is generally seen as something important during the learning process as it allows to ‘build greater ideas’ by allowing us to see things from a number of perspectives. This may be an enriching experience, helping the students revise, refine and polish their ideas. This also shows that ideally feedback is an iterative process as well a dialogue between the feedback provider and recipient rather than a monologue whereby the information is transmitted in one way only.

The students have used some really creative metaphors  to illustrate the point. According to one, feedback is ‘like mixing a group of colours again and again until you get the colour that befits your eye and expresses your thoughts or it is like having two candles or more instead of one to brighten the dark area of a work’. Another simile was a solid staircase that leads upward and forward, which points at the benefits of giving recommendations how to improve the quality of work. This resonates with me as for me feedback is inseparably linked with the idea of feed forward.
However, as another student pointed out, feedback can be a ‘double-edged weapon’ too, meaning that while some feedback can push you forward, some other may drag you down and discourage from further work. This is usually linked to lack of sensitivity and kindness when delivering the feedback. Feedback that is overly negative and critical may be destructive.
Interestingly, feedback that is overly positive may be non-constructive too; one student used a quote to develop this point: ‘if nothing bad is ever said, nothing good will ever get done’. The students pointed at the feedback provider’s attitude to the process by reminding that it’s not about underestimating the student’s effort or understanding. Feedback should concentrate on work, rather than pass judgements on the person.
The feedback recipient also carries some responsibility. If they go about their work half-heartedly, they may disregard the feedback no matter how constructive it is. Sometimes it is also advisable to take some time before reading the feedback in order to create some distance and take the criticism less personally.
The contributions have shown a rich range of experiences and a good degree of mature understanding of what feedback entails. Many contributions discussed , sometimes in some detail, what characterises constructive feedback and what can make feedback less constructive. However, since this discussion is a part of the next activity within the task sequence, I won’t report on the students opinions yet 🙂
PS All the quotes comes from the students’ contributions. If you want to read them in context, please refer to the online wall: Feedback is like …
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