UCL School of Management Associate Professor Neil Sutherland has shared important information on how to write feedback on student assessments that is useful, constructive and engaging in order to improve students’ performance and experience at UCL. Neil outlines the significance of tone, personalisation, form and content in ensuring students remain engaged with their learning.
First outlining contemporary research within the field of teaching and learning, Neil reminds markers that assessment critiques that are overly negative, critical and harsh can negatively impact the overall efficacy and accuracy of the marking process. While Neil notes that feedback should be thorough and specific, he argues that it should also be helpful. A balance needs to be established, therefore, between content of feedback, as well as form and tone.
Focusing specifically on his work within the UCL School of Management, Neil also highlights the importance of workshops that are specifically designed to provide markers with the knowledge and skills to assess student work in a productive manner. Neil’s workshops within the School of Management focus on three specific examples of marking: one that is sparse and unhelpful, another that is helpful but overly critical, and finally one that acts as a critical friend. Attendees are then able to analyse and evaluate the feedback excerpts in order to improve their own system and tone of marking.
In addition, the reading materials required for these workshops can provide further support for crafting student responses, and attendees are also invited to share examples of their own previous student feedback for analysis from the rest of the group. These workshops are essential, Neil argues, for not only developing the concrete tools and methods for finding appropriate phrasings and wordings, but also for reminding markers of the significance of tone when writing engaging student feedback.