Providing Constructive Feedback to Enhance the Student Learning Exp

Welcome to Episode 6 of Our Student Voice.

To view and interact with the introductory video, click on Start Here in the video screen.

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As a Class Representative you will be expected to provide feedback to TU Dublin staff on behalf of your class.

On occasions, you will receive requests for feedback from your lecturers, for example, if a change is proposed for your programme

On other occasions, you will need to decide whether and when it is appropriate to provide feedback at times when it has not been specifically requested, for example, if your class thought a specific teaching approach worked really well and they would like it used more widely.

As Class Representative it is your responsibility to help others in your class to provide feedback and to be heard.

When is it appropriate to provide Feedback?

Some lecturers will regularly seek feedback from class representatives on specific issues.  

When asked for feedback on a specific topic, this may provide you with an opportunity to provide feedback on other issues that are of interest to the class. If approached by a staff member for feedback, you could ask them if they would also welcome feedback on other issues and what these might be.

If there is an issue related to your programme about which your classmates feel strongly, it may be appropriate to provide unsolicited feedback about this issue to your lecturer, year tutor or your programme chair using the ABCD of Feedback (this will be described in the Key Messages).

What are the ways in which feedback can be provided, and when are there opportunities to provide feedback?

  • Programme and Module Student Surveys: You, and all your classmates, will be asked to fill in feedback forms about your experience on your programme and on individual modules.
  • Class Representative Meetings: These meetings can take place at programme level, School level, Faculty Level and University Level. If invited to these meetings, you will be able to provide feedback on behalf of your fellow students.
  • Discipline Programme Board Meetings:  Class Representatives will nominate one class representative from each programme to attend Discipline Programme Board Meetings.
  • Preparation for Reviews: Schools and Faculties will seek input from Class Representatives when they are preparing for reviews. For example, Class Representatives may be invited to contribute to a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to inform the preparation of Review Material.
  • Programme Support Contact Points:  Your Year Tutor and Programme Coordinator are your key contact points for the provision of feedback. 

What will you be asked to Provide Feedback about?

As a Class Representative you may be asked to provide feedback on any of your experiences in TU Dublin.  This may include your interactions with student services, participation in clubs and societies and other student activities.  Primarily you will be asked to provide feedback on your experience on your programme.  

This can be split into a number of key areas:

  • Curriculum:  The curriculum refers to the content of your programme.  Examples of elements of the curriculum on which you may provide feedback on include the content of the modules, the different modules included on your programme, provision of module choice, International experience, work placements.
  • Teaching and Learning: This refers to the methods used for learning and teaching in the programme.  There are lots of examples of different techniques used on programmes, including (traditional) lectures/webinars (style), problem /case based learning, Practical classes/lab simulations, small group presentations/ discussions, site visits/work placements, directed study/research projects etc. You may be asked about the how you experienced the different teaching and learning methods on the programme and what works well for you but also what worked well for other members of the class. Different people learn best in different ways, so this is area where as a Class Representative it is your responsibility to represent different views.
  • Assessment:  This refers to the full range of assessments on your programmes. Each of these assessments will have a different purpose. Some eg written/oral and practical examinations, dissertation and portfolio submissions are designed to check whether you have achieved the required learning outcomes to a specified standard. Others eg coursework assignments/quizzes, group/individual reports, presentations etc check whether you are on the right track and will provide feedback to help your learning and to do better in subsequent similar assessments in the future. In others e.g. peer review and self assessment the assessment process is the core of the learning experience.
  • Feedback on Assessment: Feedback when linked to assessment refers to the feedback that is provided to you during the assessment process often linked to the development of new skills and competences e.g. oral feedback following a presentation or a constructive commentary on a submitted case study. End of Module assessments can provide feedback on the achievement of professional standards through the allocation of grades or marks.
  • Learning Resources:  Learning resources are all the materials, supports and equipment available to facilitate your learning. These include University library study guides, reference materials, and supports as well as Module resources available through the Virtual Learning Environment e.g., notes, revision aids and multimedia training materials.
  • Development and Success: This refers to how you are being supported by your programme and TU Dublin to successfully complete your programme of study and enhance your personal skills and wellbeing. This includes how Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity initiatives are being incorporated by your programme, your preparation for employment within the programme and how consideration is given to your personal development and well being.
  • Quality Enhancement:  This refers to the processes which TU Dublin uses to improve your programme and your student experience.  This includes the Class Representative system, the committee structure, student surveys and review processes. You may be asked for feedback on your experiences of the Quality Enhancement systems and whether they you believe they are effective in meeting their objectives and what improvements could be made.  

As a class representative, or as a student in TU Dublin, it is important that you provide feedback using the ABCD method:

A is for ACCURATE: Feedback should be verified and supported by evidence.

B is for BALANCED: Feedback can take multiple perspectives; providing both the positives and the areas requiring improvement – it does not need to be one or the other.

C is for CONSTRUCTIVE: Feedback should be focussed on suggestions for how good practice can be continued or how improvements can be made.

D is for DEPERSONALISED: Feedback should focus on good practices and suggestions for improvement, not on people.

It is important that when giving feedback that this feedback is specific to the topic and is backed up by factual information to explain why.  

To make sure your feedback is accurate:  

  • Be clear and concise about the topic you are providing feedback on
  • Stick to the topic of the feedback
  • Do not over exaggerate
  • Try not to be emotional
  • Use professional language
  • Do not generalise
  • Explain about the impact of the issue
  • Explain who is effected
  • Explain if there are different opinions within the case
  • Don’t base your arguments on rumours or information that you don’t know to be true

Taken from NStEP Workbook.

It is important to provide balanced feedback so that it is known what works well and what needs improving, there is a risk that the person receiving the feedback will misunderstand and think that the parts that are working well also need to be fixed.  By providing balanced feedback you present a better picture of the experience, so that it is clearer to the person receiving the feedback what areas need improving.

Make sure you feedback is balanced by:

  • Providing both positive and negative feedback
  • Acknowledging where attempts have been made to address an issue
  • Providing all the class with an opportunity to provide their opinion
  • Acknowledging that not everyone’s experience is the same and people learn in different ways, what some people perceive as a negative others will perceive as positive
  • Being open to seeing things from a different perspective
  • Avoiding unconscious bias 

Taken from NStEP Workbook.

For feedback to be effective, it needs to provide the recipient with information that they can act on. There needs to be a potential solution.  

To provide constructive feedback you need to:

  • Explain the issue accurately
  • Explain the impact the issue is having
  • Provide suggestions on potential solutions
  • Acknowledge where there are constraints and how solutions can work around these constraints
  • Acknowledge where you can’t see a potential solution yourself but suggest methods that people can work together to provide a solution

Taken from NStEP Workbook.

If you want your feedback to be received well by your recipients you need to try not to offend them so that they are open to hearing your opinion.

The best way to do this is to depersonalise your feedback.

Sometimes this is easy, for example if you would like a stronger focus on a specific topic on your curriculum, you can easily explain that you think the curriculum would be enhanced by including this topic.

However, if your issue is with the teaching style then it takes more effort to depersonalise your comments but worth making the effort.  

For example instead of telling a staff member that they speak too fast, explain that some of the class are finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of the class and suggest that it may assist them if the pace was slowed down.

It helps to be Diplomatic, you need to think about how others may react to your feedback.

When feedback is mostly negative, try to present it in a way that shows the impact on the students and not as a direct criticism of a particular person.  

If a person acts defensively to your feedback, stay calm and keep focussed on the impact of the issue on students.  

To Depersonalise your Feedback:

  • Focus on the impact of the Issue
  • Don’t provide direct criticism of an individual
  • Use professional language

Taken from NStEP Workbook.

These learning activities are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills required for this episode. These learning activities are also a requirement for the Active Class Representative, Curriculum Co-Designer, and Quality Assurance Expert Digital Badges.

Learning Activity 6.1. Writing Constructive Feedback

Consider a situation in your recent experience for which you would like to provide feedback.

Use the ABCD approach to write an email in which you are providing the feedback.

Share your email with a classmate, if you're comfortable in doing so, to get their view.

If you are applying for a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.

Learning Activity 6.2. Evaluating Feedback

Consider the last time you provided feedback on your learning experience.

Use the ABCD approach to evaluate your feedback, and assess how you would do it differently if you had used the ABCD approach.

If you are applying for a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.

The ABCD model is included with the permission of, and thanks to, NStEP. They are included  in and described in detail in the NStEP Workbook.