Feedback for all

I think I had a bit of a eureka moment today. Instead of seeing feedback as something which is given by the tutor at various points in a course, I am beginning to realise that it can become an integral and continuous part of the teaching and learning process involving the whole group.

Feedback has traditionally been seen as something passed from tutor to student. Best practice has sometimes involved an attempt to get a dialogue going between tutor and student.
Yang and Carless (2013) extend the definition by seeing feedback as “all dialogue to support learning in both formal and informal situations” but they are well aware of the “imbalanced power relationship between tutor and student”, in which the student may well experience negative emotions.
How can we avoid this imbalance and achieve a real dialogue or a “conversational framework”?

Just as “assessment for learning” is all about using assessment as a formative activity throughout a course, feedback can also be seen as pervading almost every aspect of a teaching programme. Some ideas for achieving this:
+ peer feedback can be more effective as it has the potential to avoid the power relationship issue and it results in a different    type of feedback
+ opportunities for dialogue occur as students interact
+ collaborative assignment production would incorporate continuous peer (and tutor) feedback
+ the tutor could show all students all their feedback (not just each individual’s) which they then discuss in small groups
And there is scope for making the dialogue between tutor and student more of a formative conversation:
+ offer students choice about the form of feedback they prefer (Nicol 20010)
+ podcasts and video casts offer alternatives modes of feedback
+ students can make requests for specific feedback about aspects of the topic when submitting work
+ students can submit a note in which they are asked to say what their main points are, to highlight what they see as the strongest and weakest sections and to say what questions they have for the tutor.

My next task is to look at how this kind of conversation can be achieved online.

Nicol, David. “From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 35.5 (2010): 501-517.

Yang, Min, and David Carless. “The feedback triangle and the enhancement of dialogic feedback processes.” Teaching in Higher Education 18.3 (2013): 285-297.


Can online feedback be effective?

Can feedback to students in online courses be effective? or something along those lines.
Plan for preparation and research 200 words
  • should I use examples of feedback from my own practice?
  • interview a colleague who has used video feedback?
  • consult sources from previous modules (if I can find them!)
  • consult peers on H818 about detailed aspects of the proposal
Topic and scope 200 words
  • What is a learning dialogue with students?
  • what are the characteristics of an effective feedback process?
  • how can they be achieved online?
  • what technology is readily available and what are its pros and cons?
  • are there some students who will not benefit from audio/video feedback?
4 main sources of information 200 words
Rationale for format 100 words
  • Not sure about format yet. I need to decide on the audience.
  • Some people have mentioned ebooks so I shall explore how that might work.
New skills required 100 words
  • making podcasts and videocasts needs to become routine
  • ability to convey feedback orally in a supportive way
  • striking balance between style and substance
Existing skills to be used  100 words
  • I have been devising and delivering online programmes for 2 years
  • Some experience of podcasts and video casts
  • ongoing feedback practice
Areas of uncertainty or risk  100 words
  • How will I know if the forms of online feedback I look at are successful or not?
  • I need to ensure that I don’t just draw conclusions based only on my own experience.

Open or shut case?

Martin Weller makes the case for teachers and students to adopt an open philosophy. I don’t work in H.E. so I don’t have the pressure of needing to come up with original work or to spread my ideas – but as a teacher in F.E. it would seem to me a good idea for me to swap ideas, strategies, approaches and resources with other practitioners. And I can see that being exposed to other people’s thoughts and opinions must surely be a good thing.

In a way, Martin Weller’s final point is the main area of overlap with Anne Adams’ look at some of the potential disadvantages of open. He suggests that by being open you reach different audiences. I agree with that (e.g.students enrol on my e-course who would not be able to attend a classroom based course) but Adams’ point that we shouldn’t force openness on students also chimes with some of my students’ response when urged to attend online tutorials. She talks about students maintaining anonymity by turning cameras to the wall.

This is really interesting. Students tend not to face the wall in classroom-based teaching so why should they when on line? To what extent should students be able to pick and choose what they do when on a course?

Another point: Martin Weller chose to deliver a podcast accompanied by a photo of himself. I would like to hear what people think about that strategy. Is a photo less distracting than a video clip of the speaker?

A final remark: I feel I have had more contact with a professor (Martin Weller) on this module and the previous ones than I ever had with my professor of German way back in the last century. That must be a good thing!

Decisions, decisions!

We have been asked to mull over possible topics for our conference project on the OU H818 course working towards the MA in Open and Distance Education. There is quite a lot of overlap between the 3 themes but I have tried to come up with some possibilities for each. No prizes for noticing that I am interested in practice to do with interaction in the learning process, and looking at ways of making the feedback process more effective.


  • case study on how non-academic students on my teacher-training courses can be supported
  • production of a potted guide to accessibility for inclusion in my teacher-training courses
  • ……


  • using reflective journal posts to improve tutor-student and student-student dialogue
  • what are the principles of running effective online tutorials?
  • how can collaborative student work be facilitated using digital technology?


  • using video casts for giving students feedback
  • developing the use of discussion forums to maximise student interaction
  • using a studio approach to improve the learning process

Have you any experience of any of these?

The classroom, virtual or actual, as a studio

Apart from admiring the professional standard of Seely Brown’s clip I can also go part of the way in agreeing with him that learning is more effective if you are in a studio-type environment, where everyone’s work can be seen and critiqued by everyone else in the group. (and that is also an effective way of working in a non-teaching context as well, I suppose)

But collaborative working presupposes an assessment regime which is sympathetic to a shared product where it may not be so easy to clearly establish an individual’s specific contribution. I have some experience of my student group producing one joint piece of assessed work, and I certainly feel that some really effective learning takes place. I shall try Seely Brown’s approach where students are working towards individual end-products but critique each other’s work openly and throughout the process.

As ever with assessment, the secret is to strike a balance between formative and summative approaches; it is hard to produce an assessment regime which gets the best of both worlds. Maybe that is what H818 is aiming to do!

Challenges and Assumptions of Open Scholarsip

Veletsianos and Kimmons make some interesting points, not all of them relevant to my FE context, in their article Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship.’Scholarship’ is very much a university preoccupation.
1. Ideals of democratisation: in as far as digital technology gives more people access to courses, because it can overcome geographical and physical barriers, then my college has made provision more democratic. But we don’t produce any OA materials – why would we? It might be possible to persuade the college to run free taster courses designed to attract students onto fee-paying courses but that’s as far as it would go, I think.
2. Digital literacy would be a prerequisite for learners and tutors. The emphasis here is on H.E. but is harder to disagree with this. In college, we are mainly concerned with teaching effectively, which probably means making increasing use of digital technology – but not all of my colleagues agree. And there is a danger that the medium becomes the message i.e. we pay more attention to up-to-date use of the latest technology than to the content and manner of what we are teaching.
3. I thought the points about the relationship between technology and culture, about the ‘filter bubble’ which limits our exposure to diverse information, is very convincing, and is a welcome reality check, given the universal euphoria which seems to greet any new piece of technology. The point about sharing views and information with people who already share our views, people who we ‘like’, raises important questions. Mind you, this is perhaps more of an issue in H.E., where original thought is more part of the staple diet, than in F.E. where students are just learning to research and find information.
4. Veletsianos and Kimmons’ final concern is whether open scholarship is a practical and effective way of achieving scholarly aims; this is not a worry we have in F.E.!
So in short, I am most affected by the availability of technology which enables:
us to run online courses whose advantages include the fact that they can be accessed by new cohorts of students (but not because they are open access or free.)
me to network with a large number of correspondents over an infinite area

Becoming a digital practitioner!

Starting H818 the OU Digital Practitioner
I’m looking forward to experiencing more technology but, as always when I start this kind of course, I shall try to keep a sense of proportion with the bewildering array of apps and fancy gizmos.It’s easy to feel that others are more into the latest offerings but I shall try not to confuse the medium with the message. As with any teaching resource I think you should only use it if it helps you get your learners to the desired objectives and not just because it has some snazzy facility.

I like the strong collaborative element in H818 as it will enable me to get more ideas for getting my own students working together online. At the moment in my courses we are using:

Discussion forums
Online tutorials using Webex
Student collaborations using Webex
Wikis (a bit!)
Padlet (still working on this)
Do you have any more ideas?