Learning and Teaching

Too much feedback?!

Some time ago, I was discussing with a colleague who mentioned that they received feedback from students who said that they were receiving too much feedback. Too much feedback?! That was my response, which was both a surprise and a question at the same time. Why did the students say that they were receiving too much feedback? In fact, what is too much feedback? How much feedback is too much feedback? As we carried on the conversation, I tried to see if I could get answers to some of these questions but I struggled. I guess unless I have the opportunity of discussing with those students, I won’t know for sure, what they meant by too much feedback. Nonetheless, let me reflect on the comment – at least I was once a student, and there are general guidelines around providing feedback.

When it comes of providing feedback, the first guideline that comes to mind is the sandwich method where negative comments are layered with positive comments. I’ve heard someone allude to the stance that this method is better left in the bin; nonetheless, this is a method I use sometimes (I will write a post on why I still use the method). Another feedback guideline I apply is that, when students show me drafts of their work, I strive to provide recommendations on how suggested corrections can be made. This is a guideline I learnt during a teacher training I attended some time ago. Also, when making comments, I don’t just provide feedback based on the marking criteria; where possible (and when the need arises), I comment on other corrections so that students can learn principles or concepts which they might apply in other instances, situations or academic assessment. In addition, during one of my teacher training, we were taught that the feedback we provide should be clear and easy to understand. Therefore, in trying to incorporate some of these guidelines, there is a chance that the feedback could be somewhat lengthy; albeit, I also find that students are usually thankful for the comments and often come back for more feedback on updated drafts. Also, when speaking to students, I believe that they appreciate getting as much feedback as they can get as this shows that we have paid attention to what they’ve written or asked – which is time well spent for both parties.

For written feedback, it’s a slightly different story. Attempting to incorporate some best practice guidelines could mean long comments which perhaps could mean too much feedback. However, one could argue that too much feedback is not a reflection of length (and maybe it is also not intended to have a negative connotation). It might be that the students do appreciate and value the feedback they received but maybe they felt overwhelmed, pressured or disappointed by how much corrections the work needed. It could also be argued that maybe the student(s) was not “happy” about (or did not agree with) the feedback they had received and therefore, felt that the best way to express their unhappiness (or disagreement) is by saying that they received too much feedback. Again, I can’t be certain what the student(s) meant by too much feedback. In fact, too much feedback might mean different things to different students. So, if a student feeds back that they have received too much feedback, my response will be to first understand what they mean by too much feedback and then it will become somewhat easier to know what to do differently. In the meantime, I will focus on supporting students as much as possible, by providing as much feedback as they need in order to improve their work and overall learning experience.

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