eedback is crucial to enhancing the learning process (Merry, et al., 2013; Sadler, 2010). In the context of supporting transitions to Higher Education (HE), effective feedback can play a pivotal role in fostering student motivation, confidence and success in the first year (Nicol, 2009). However, in recent years, feedback has emerged as a growing concern for HE, with several reports consistently identifying low levels of student satisfaction around feedback practices (Carless, 2006; HEFCE, 2015; Radloff & Coates, 2010, ISSE 2015).
Technology presents both opportunities and challenges to educators not only to enrich existing feedback practices but also to enable new feedback approaches. Several publications have highlighted the potential affordances of technology to support feedback practices including increasing accessibility and flexibility, promoting engagement and dialogue and providing a greater volume of feedback in a timely manner (Gilbert, Whitelock and Gale, 2011; Hepplestone et al., 2011; Ferrell, 2014; NFETL, 2014). Significant challenges also exist, however, including the rapid development of technologies, ensuring new technology solutions are aligned with good practice, workload sustainability, scalability, and staff resistance to change (Ferrell 2013; Moscrop and Beaumont, 2017; Dawson and Henderson, 2017; Gray and Ferrell, 2013).
Y1Feedback is a collaborative project led by Maynooth University, in partnership with Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, and funded by the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, which sought to investigate the potential of digital technologies to enhance feedback practice in first year. In 2015, the Y1Feedback team explored feedback practices and experiences in first year across the four partner institutions. The study revealed that the student experience of feedback in first year was inconsistent, together with student dissatisfaction with perceived deficiencies in the timeliness, consistency, clarity, and usefulness of feedback received. It also revealed limited use of technology to support feedback practices, despite significant usage of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), to support online submission of assessments (Y1Feedback, 2016). Informed by this study and a review of international scholarship on feedback, the team identified a range of feedback approaches to support practice in the first year, including:
In-class and real-time feedback approaches
Multi-modal enabled feedback
Anticipatory approaches to feedback
Separating grades and feedback
Exemplars, rubrics and marking guides
Programme team approaches (Y1Feedback 2016)
A key underpinning of all the approaches identified is the idea of ‘dialogic feedback’ (Carless, 2015), with the potential to support the development of ‘sustainable’ feedback’ (Sadler, 2010).
In partnership with ‘Feedback Champions’ across the four partner institutions, the project explored the identified approaches through the design and implementation of 24 technology-enabled assessment and feedback case studies.
This research paper will begin by outlining the technology-enabled feedback approaches identified and underpinning feedback principles. Next, based on an analysis of the case study implementations of identified approaches, overall findings will be shared. Finally, we will present potential strategies to support the embedding of sustainable feedback practices.