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Feedback is an often-underused element of the university experience. There are a lot of different opportunities for feedback within both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. These might be formal or informal, each offering a prompt to reflect on advice and guidance to develop as a learner. At its heart, feedback is about developing you as an individual and a future practitioner in whichever course you are studying. 

Explore our Working With Feedback portfolio to reflect upon your own feedback and identify next steps.

Feedback portfolio, Feedback portfolio for students

  • Formative feedback

    You will receive formative feedback throughout your course; this is entirely developmental and it does not come with a specified mark as a summative assignment would. You can also benefit from receiving formative feedback throughout your course in lots of places. Below are some of the opportunities you may come across:

    • You may take part in a discussion or discussion board within your class. Although this isn’t a marked piece of work, everyone would be expected to chip in and respond to each other. This means that you are all learning together. In this scenario, you might receive feedback from both peers and your tutor. It is common to receive informal feedback throughout your course in this way.   
    • At the start of your university journey tutors may set a formative assignment. You would be expected to submit to a deadline but receive advice and guidance only. There would be no expectation of giving you a mark. This is to encourage you to develop your university skills and is to help you prepare for marked summative work. Academic tutors may offer to read excerpts of your work within any module; proactive students make good use of this avenue of support.
    • When working on an individual assignment, you might share this with a ‘critical-friend’ this just means someone who can read through it and offer suggestions for improvements. A family member might offer to proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammar. This would be useful feedback and improve the flow of your essay.
    • If you are a student working on a dissertation or research project you might be allocated a supervisor from your academic team. This named individual is the specialist within the team on your chosen topic and a useful ally. Be sure to contact them and book a meeting early in your work to consider the help and support they might give. As you progress through your project, send them samples of your work and seek their support through feedback.
    • You may access support from the Skills@Cumbria team by booking an appointment or requesting feedback via email. This is aimed to help you develop your academic skills and does not offer feedback on subject knowledge. You can read more about that on our Further Support and Appointments page. Our most proactive students seek help when they are tackling a new type of assignment, or if they have specific feedback that they need to respond to.
    • Finally, if you are a student with a disability and Specific Learning Difficulty e.g. dyslexia you may be offered additional support from a dedicated team. If you think this may be relevant to you, explore the range of support available. Feedback from this team will be tailored individually to you and your needs.  
  • Summative feedback

    Summative feedback is given for assessed work and is usually accompanied by a grade. Often this is timed towards the end of a module. The temptation with this is to focus only on the grade achieved. When grades are awarded this can be an emotive point. Sometimes students are delighted to receive high marks. Sometimes there is disappointment when the mark that is hoped for is different to that awarded. Looking to the detailed feedback for your assessment is how to develop your work and build on your skills for future assignments.

    The feedback from your tutor signposts your areas for development in the next piece of work you complete and should commend you for strengths to your work. Look closely at any contextual feedback given throughout your work. If you have submitted through Turnitin this will be included throughout the essay. You will also receive overarching comments towards the end of your work.

    One thing to be aware of is that all summative feedback will be given in the context of your learning objectives for the module. So, it is a good idea to look to these to understand and unpick the feedback you receive.

  • Applying your feedback

    Once you have received your feedback, it is then time to consider what to do with the information you have been given. Each time you submit an assessment, you are making a step towards graduating, so you should be developing your skills incrementally along that journey. Taking time to pause at each step and reflecting on the advice and guidance included in your feedback is a very positive part of that process. To get an overview of working with feedback, watch our short video.

    To maximise your feedback, follow these five simple steps:

    1. Read each feedback comment and consider what you are being told. Is the feedback specific to this piece of work? Consider why you made the decisions you did when creating your work. For example, if the feedback is about a specific subtopic of a written assignment, why did you present it in a certain way? Can you see how responding in the way suggested by your feedback would have made a difference?
    2. What is the general feedback? Can you develop these skills to have an impact on your next piece of work? If you regularly get feedback about paragraph structure, note this down. You can develop this academic skill and it will make improvements to every piece of written work in future. Use our Feedback template to make a note of this type of comment.
    3. Try not to respond to every piece of feedback equally. It is best to target your efforts to where it will reward you most. Can you identify themes within one assignment, or across multiple assignments where you have similar feedback? This is a good starting point as it will make the most impact on your work. Once you have mastered that, you can address something else.
    4. Set yourself mini deadlines but be specific and realistic. Once you have worked out your area for development, give yourself a deadline. This makes it a defined task and more achievable. Look at the time management page for some ideas about target setting, or apps that can help you schedule your time. Discuss your targets with a peer or tutor- you then have an accountability buddy who can help motivate you.
    5. Make reflecting on your feedback part of your assignment process. This means that you celebrate your success-which is very important, but you also develop your skills as you progress through your course. 
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