Blog post – Reducing requests for student feedback on assessment items

As a new academic, I found myself wondering how to get on top of my workload. With multiple aspects of academia that others seemed to manage so easily, why was I finding that everything took me longer? Figuring it had to do with time management, I thought carefully about where I spent my time. The number of students wanting to discuss their grades or appealing their result was something that popped immediately to mind. Questioning why students would query their grade, I realised that it wasn’t just ‘about them’ and their quest for the next grade band, but it was something I thought I could likely control as well. I figured there were three things that would impact on a student's request for review, all of which related to something I could control:

  1. The more students that understood what was being asked for by an assessment task, the easier it would be for them to determine why it was required;

  2. The better the feedback students received on their assessment, the more they could understand what they did well and what could be improved; 

  3. If students understood the academic rigour associated with assessment (i.e. peer appraisal of the assessment item before use, moderation processes and cross-marking) they would understand it wasn’t just about them but rather an academic had to justify the grade they had allocated to another academic.

The next semester, things certainly improved. I had fewer requests for remarks and fewer disgruntled students. However, I felt there was more I could do to improve outcomes for me and for the students. Over the coming semesters, I instituted additional strategies which seemed to not only reduce my workload associated with assessment, but to increase student satisfaction. Some of the other strategies I adopted were:

  • Not just the provision of good feedback specific to the assessment, but feedback which was meaningful and could be used to drive learning and approaches to future practice and assessment (more recently, I have included recording oral feedback through Turnitin);

  • As well as individual feedback on the assessment item, I also included more generic ‘assessment’ feedback which covered the major strengths and failings in the student's approach to the assessment item (delivered through lectures and also Blackboard; providing this upon the release of results also seemed to reach at least some of the students who never review their assessment feedback);

  • Use tutorial teaching to mirror the assessment task (so if there is an oral assessment later in the semester, front-end tutorials would be structured around questions/timeframes/expectations required in the oral assessment);

  • Explain assessment requirements not just in the first lecture but also by recording a short video to explain the assessment;

  • Develop better rubrics which don’t just help academics with marking expectations, but also make it clear as to what is expected and what constitutes increasing grade bands;

  • Where there were problems which seemed more widespread in the student cohort, recognise that I shouldn’t just refine the assessment item, sometimes I should generate a brand new assessment item.

With all that in mind, the biggest thing is to take a positive view on this. Rather than see it as a problem for me, how could I make it positive for students and increase their satisfaction? It’s not just about clarity in assessment items and expectations, it requires more. Through increasing students' understanding of why they were awarded the grade they received, providing feedback to help them improve on future assessment items and generating assessment items which they could see the application for in their future field of work, I was able to increase student satisfaction with assessment items and consequently reduce students' angst and my workload.

Last updated:
4 November 2019