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Tipping out the Boot Grit: the use of on-going feedback devices to enhance feedback dialogue

Prof Mark Huxham, Edinburgh Napier University Dr Jan McArthur, University of Edinburgh Jenny Hounsell, University of Edinburgh Jenny Scoles, University of Stirling

6th July 2011: Assessment in Higher Education 2011, University of Cumbria

Project Background
HEA ESCalate Developing Pedagogy and Practice and HEA UK Centre for Biosciences funded project

Understanding feedback as: - a dialogue between students and teachers - an ongoing and multi-faceted part of students engagement with a course, rather than a singular process that occurs at only one point

Two feedback approaches (dialogue devices) were explored using action research Factors that affect student engagement with these dialogue moments were investigated using both qualitative and quantitative methods Insights from these approaches then used to inform the development of other forms of dialogue

Two Dialogic Approaches

Boot Grit
Situated in lectures as a response to ever increasing class sizes

Confidential opportunity for students to ask lecturer about key concepts that remain unclear at the end of a lecture
Lecturer responds promptly to initiate dialogue Resolve misunderstandings or knowledge gaps that if left unresolved could worry away at the students learning in negative way and create blisters like grit in a boot!

Focused Feedback
Situated in major pieces of coursework Opportunity for students to request feedback on particular aspects of their work when they submit it Lecturers then pick up the dialogue with each student as they respond to their requests

The Guidance and Feedback Loop

(Adapted from Hounsell, McCune, Hounsell & Litjens, 2008)

6. Feedforward

1. Student Prior Experiences of Assessments

5. Supplementary Support

2. Preliminary guidance

1. Boot Grit

2. Focused Feedback

4. Feedback on Performance/ Achievement

3. Ongoing Clarification of Expectations

Boot Grit

Immediate; informal; novel; open-ended An old boot Text-walling 2 courses; 216 requests: 90% asked very specific, focused, topic-related questions - demonstrates a high level of student understanding of the purposes of the boot grit feedback in lectures Boot grit comments:
Half life calculation thing? Very confusing! Fixation thing Disruptive selection how it works Sickle cell anemia Clines (explain more) please!

Boot Grit Cont.

Text wall comments very similar but with one notable distinction: non-lecture related comments:
The person next to me wants a fag My girlfriend is pregnant what do I do

Suggests familiarity and at ease with technology Irrelevant questions still allow and reinforce genuine dialogue:
Question: not being able to eat in lecture halls

Answer: sorry but should help you stay awake...

Importance of introducing boot grit from the first lecture to establish this form of dialogue as a natural part of the course
- Can help establish the norms of course behaviour in partnership with students, rather than as top down

Boot Grit cont.

Boot grit feedback was a success: students engaged with and understood the concept Does not generate significant volumes of new work Integrated into vocabulary of the school Allows students to ask silly questions while remaining anonymous Provides an avenue for students not confident to speak out in large classes Perceived as part of a more general interactive, participative style of lectures which most also appreciated Students liked to get answers to their questions!

Focused Feedback Approach

Would you like feedback on any specific aspects of this piece of work? If so please indicate what you want feedback on at the end of your script.

Edinburgh Napier University (n=710) University of Edinburgh (n=460)

Focused Feedback Results

Surprising results: only 3.65% students requested focused feedback Mostly procedural requests Request examples:
The parts of the protein that determine its location within a cell. I am still not completely sure how this works. (direct answer) 70% Were the introduction and conclusion long enough? Did I put enough information in them or should I have expanded them more? (no answer) 70%

Misunderstanding of feedback approach by lecturer/marker Conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with students to explore the low take-up

Possible reasons/barriers to uptake

1) Trust it might draw markers attention to something they hadnt noticed before, or
it might give some people an unfair advantage I guess[marker] might just be a little bit more sympathetic to them

2) Lake Wobegon Effect

its probably ok for other people but I just um no not really ...personally for me I dont think Id really use it but its a good thing for people who you know who have something to actually ask for

3) Power Dynamics and Dialogue

It [feedback] depends on the lecturer I think because some of them are really general and some of them are really specific so it depends on the time of the lecturer and how much they are willing to do

4) Unfamiliarity
I know quite a lot of people who didnt do it but I think its because they didnt read the WebCT stuff so they werent aware of it

5) Timing
getting the assignment in was just a bit of a panicasking for feedback was kind of like the last thing on my mind

The stark contrast of the success of two approaches provide insights into how the most effective dialogical devices or moments need to be introduced into the learning cycle at points that are: 1) timely 2) enable informed participation 3) integrated into a wider dialogical relationship 4) appropriate to the teaching and learning context 5) built on relationships of trust.

Further Research in Feedback Dialogues

1. Student Prior Experiences of Assessments

4. Introducing feedforward in WBL experiences

6. Feedforward

5. Supplementary Support

2. Preliminary guidance

1. Boot Grit

2. Focused Feedback

4. Feedback on Performance/ Achievement

3. Ongoing Clarification of Expectations

3. Exemplars for CW and exams


Bloxham, S. & Campbell, L., (2010) Generating dialogue in assessment feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35, 3, 291-300. Burke, D. (2009) Strategies for using feedback students bring to higher education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34, 1, 41-50. Carless, D. (2009). Trust, distrust and their impact on assessment reform. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(1), 79-89. Higgins, R., Hartley, P., & Skelton, A. (2002). The conscientious consumer: Reconsidering the role of assessment feedback in student learning. Studies in Higher Education, 27(1), 53-64. Hounsell, D. (2008) The Trouble with Feedback: New Challenges, Emerging Strategies, Accessed from www.tla.ed.ac.uk/interchange/spring2008/hounsell2.pdf 18/02/10

Hounsell, D., McCune, V., Hounsell, J., and Litjens, J. (2008) The quality of guidance and feedback to students. Higher Education Research & Development, 27, 1, 55-67.
Poulos, A., & Mahony, M. J. (2008). Effectivensss of feedback: The students' perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(2),



For more information: please contact Dr Jan McArthur, Institute for Education, Community and Society, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, jan.mcarthur@ed.ac.uk