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Feedback to the Future!

By 8th April 2021No Comments

by Dr Russell Crawford, Director of Learning & Teaching at Falmouth University

Russell is leading a project to transform Falmouth’s curriculum to become team-based, challenge-focused and market-aligned as part of the University’s 2030 Portfolio Strategy. Central to his teaching and learning strategy is a novel Falmouth bespoke formative feedback cycle. In this blog he introduces us to the idea and explains why feedback must have impact to aid success.

Forgive my wordplay in the title, but the idea that feedback should always be forward looking is an interesting one, especially in the current higher education climate. The jewel in the crown of any learning and teaching practitioner is the success, style and impact of their feedback and most critically, the impact this has on the learner. It is not too extreme a position to suggest that unless feedback has impact, there is functionally no point in giving it in the first place.

The Falmouth Learning & Teaching Directorate are working on creating a user-focussed set of guidelines that anyone providing feedback in any of our Falmouth educational contexts can use to structure both thinking and implementation of that feedback to ensure positive impact.

The core idea behind the new feedback cycle is one of “feedback gain”, in essence using the concept of what gains the recipient will get from their feedback so that there is a “distance travelled” between getting the feedback to acting on it. Taking this approach means that anyone using the new cycle to tailor their feedback practices, has at their disposal a useful way to ensure that the feedback they are delivering is “impactful” for the person receiving it.

In that regard, there is an everlasting driver in the education sector for really good quality formative feedback and the only way that is possible consistently, is empowering the educator, the business partner and indeed, peers, in selecting the most efficient, appropriate and impactful ways to refine their feedback. The learning and teaching benefits of adhering to the new cycle is therefore in consistency but also the layers of thought that should and do go into “good feedback”. If the learner can action their feedback, then we are significantly along the road of having that desirable “impact”.

Where this comes into its own is when taking these ideas and applying them outside the university environment and into the business, self-employment, and post-education world. Having an appreciation of and ability to deliver impactful feedback is a key survival skill in the real world and something Falmouth learners and practitioners could lead the way on if the new cycle lands well across the institute.

What the new Falmouth-created cyclical model therefore provides is a scaffolded and flexible way to craft feedback for educational, personal, and professional needs of the recipient whilst simultaneously encouraging considerations of type of feedback (verbal, written, audio or options such as comment-based, goal-referenced and clarification-based feedback) structure (informal, coaching, group etc.) and motivation of feedback so that positive impacts are the rule, rather than a by-product of good quality formative feedback.

If you would like to test-drive the new feedback cycle in any context get in touch with Russell on Russell.Crawford@falmouth.ac.uk

Russell Crawford has won various accolades for teaching excellence, including the National Times Higher Education ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ award in 2017 and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2018. He is also co-creator of Braincept, which uses a range of game-based approaches to aid learning in a number of contexts.