Feedback for learning: the challenge of design

Old Arts-129 (Theatre B) The University of Melbourne Parkville


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Erin Turner

T: 03 8344 2591


Feedback is a challenging but important business in higher education. Despite compelling evidence that it is important for learning, feedback is seen as one of the most problematic aspects of the student experience.  Learners report that they do not receive enough feedback, and when they do, it is difficult to use. This finding is consistent across both classroom and workplace settings. Educators in the classroom struggle with turn-around time for comments on work, as well as the pressure to provide personalised and individualised comments on students’ work. Educators in both settings also anticipate the emotional impact of their feedback on students, and can approach these encounters with a tentative stance that reinforces to learners that feedback is a practice to be feared. Recent frameworks proposed by Boud and Molloy (2013) called Feedback Mark 1 and Mark 2 will be explored. Here, feedback is re-conceptualised as an activity driven by learners, rather than an act of ‘telling’ imposed on learners. Learners are encouraged to self-evaluate, and to help devise plans that will help them achieve the set learning goals. This approach challenges learning cultures with established feedback rituals resembling experts telling learners what is going wrong, with very little planning for what comes next (Feedback Mark 0).


Elizabeth Molloy is Professor of Work Integrated Learning in the Department of Medical Education, Melbourne Medical School. She was previously Director of the Health Professions Education and Educational Research Unit at Monash University (2011-2014). Elizabeth’s PhD (2006) here at the University of Melbourne examined the role of the clinical educator in providing performance feedback to students. Elizabeth has published over 90 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and books, with an interest in workplace learning, feedback, assessment and professional development of teachers. Elizabeth is currently working on 2 Nationally funded grants (Office of Learning and Teaching) examining how feedback can be designed in the university and work-based settings.