How to use feedback effectively: A guide for computer science students
Assessment and feedback have a major impact on students’ experiences at university. These are also the areas that tend to have the lowest satisfaction scores in both the university wide MEQs and the UK wide NSS. High quality feedback is a crucial part of a student’s learning process and there are various possible factors that could cause dissatisfaction. Different perceptions of feedback between students and teaching staff or students not recognising the feedback given to them or how to effectively engage with it could be factors. Studies on enhancing feedback literacy are mostly aimed at the social sciences such as the DEFT toolkit developed by Winstone and Nash (2016). The development of a feedback literacy strategy must be rooted in the specific practices of the discipline (Shulman, 2005; Winstone et al. 2020).
Computer science is a unique discipline where students must develop “computational thinking”, situate theory in practice, and learn “new languages” of coding and modelling. First year students can have a very different prior understanding of teaching and feedback, and university can be a difficult adjustment. It is important to make students aware of the feedback processes used within the discipline and how they can be effective recipients of feedback and turn it into actions to learn and improve. It is also important that they can feedforward within a module and into the next connected module (Winstone & Carless, 2019).
Once students have acquired feedback literacy, the hope is it will lead to a better learning experience and an improvement in progression rates. Computer Science students will be going on placements and working in industry, so acquiring effective feedback literacy is a transferrable skill that will also be beneficial in the workplace and boost their employability.
Aims and objectives
The main aim of the project is to enhance students’ feedback literacy skills. A guide will be developed on how to effectively use feedback designed specifically for computer science students to reflect the pedagogy of the discipline.
- The DEFT toolkit will be used as a basis to develop the computer science guide
- A questionnaire will be used to ascertain first year students’ understanding of feedback processes
- A focus group of first year students will contribute to the guide as student consultants
- A focus group of computer science Professional Training Year students will discuss feedback strategies used in industry, with the hope that this data could inform the use of more authentic feedback practices at university.
Finally, the hope is to develop a discipline specific sustainable feedback strategy based on a learner centred process model that will be embedded in the curriculum and provide a framework of standard criteria that the teaching staff can use.
It is the hope that the guide could be used as a template for other Departments in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.