Feedback for enhanced student performance: lessons from simple control theory

Benjamin, Christopher
December 2012
Engineering Education;Dec2012, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p16
Academic Journal
Students repeatedly express dissatisfaction with the feedback they receive, and academic staff express similar levels of frustration, with students not reading, let alone applying, the feedback they have spent so much time generating. The problems surrounding academic feedback are perhaps surprising, considering the ubiquitous and necessary nature of feedback in our everyday lives and our successful use of it without giving it much conscious thought. This paper investigates the comparison between the nature, value and use of feedback in simple control systems and the feedback offered to students in the academic world. It firstly considers how feedback is utilised to produce closed-loop control systems (compared to open-loop systems) and the advantages of this. It then discusses three aspects of the successful implementation of control system feedback (timeliness, appropriateness and application) and applies them to academic feedback, with a view to improving understanding and effectiveness in enhancing student performance. A case is made for student generated feedback and a trial is described which endeavoured to encourage this. Whilst recognising the complex nature of the role of feedback within the total student experience, an attempt is made to look afresh at the requirements of successful academic feedback from a novel perspective.


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