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What is the problem with feedback?

posted on 01.01.2013, 00:00 authored by David BoudDavid Boud, E Molloy
We all experience the inuence of feedback in our lives and in our work. We are told that we can’t park our car in a particular space, and we choose to go elsewhere. Our students tell us that they don’t understand a point we have made in class and we nd another way of explaining it. We get referees’ comments on a paper submitted to a journal, we make revisions and resubmit it. These are familiar examples of everyday feedback. Feedback is a normal part of our lives; it is ubiquitous. If it seems to work so normally and so regularly, why then does it appear to be so troublesome in higher and professional education? Why is it that students complain more about feedback than almost any others parts of their courses? Is what we are doing so wrong, or are there other explanations of what is rapidly becoming a crisis of concern? One of the key reasons for a focus on feedback is that it is widely accepted to be an important part of learning and it refers to an important part of learners’ lives. It is not some minor feature of students’ experience. They have probably spent more time on their main assignments than on any other aspects of their study. Feedback is the mechanism through which students discover whether they are successful in their work and if they are on track to meet expectations. It is central in their lives as learners. Through feedback teachers communicate what they value and do not value in what students do. It is a personal channel of communication to students about something in which they have typically invested considerable time and effort. Learners care about their work and they care about how it will be judged. We suggest in this book that there are explanations for what appears to be troubling and that there are many strategies that can considerably enhance the positive impact of feedback on students and their learning. We will show that part of the present ‘crisis’ is that we do not have a sufciently secure idea of what feedback is for us to consistently use it effectively. There are overlooked features of feedback that need to be considered to make it work, and there are many options for what we can usefully do. We expect that by engaging with this book, readers will be able to see feedback afresh and will never again arrange students’ tasks in the same way. Many of the approaches discussed here do not involve more ongoing effort by teachers, indeed they may end up spending less time marking, or observing performance in situ, but they do require us to take a sober look at what is being achieved through feedback practices and rethink what is of most importance to benet students.


Title of book

Feedback in higher and professional education: understanding it and doing it well


1 - 10



Place of publication

London, Eng.





Publication classification

B1.1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2013, D. Boud & E. Molloy


D Boud, E Molloy

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