Using feedback to improve future performance

Learning is a process of communication, and feedback is essential to this. It helps you identify strengths/weaknesses in your work and focus on problem areasBut it is not always obvious what your feedback is telling you and thinking of ways to rectify issues in your work is not always easy either. This post looks at three types of feedback for your assignments to help overcome these issues. 

Content

  • Lack of relevance. Quotes and examples you are using may appear unrelated to the question. You should always justify the importance of these. If you are unable to, they probably are irrelevant.  
  • Detail. You might be providing a superficial answer and not delving deep enough into the literature’s argumentsOr you might be using too many words simply to describe something. A good idea is to focus on a few arguments in the literature, depending on word count, and use a large portion of your word count for evaluating those arguments and the evidence that supports/opposes them. It is important to develop your own voice and let the reader see how you build an informed position based on the authors/positions you discuss. Do not be afraid to say what you think. 

Structure

  • Failure to introduce topic correctly. You should define the terms in the question and signpost your assignment and provide enough background so that your reader can make sense of what you are going to cover. 
  • Imbalanced discussion. You might be giving too much word count to one case, and the numer of words used to discuss something, implies how important it is. When you are comparing, make sure you give each element similar coverage. In exams, speed-planning your essays before writing might help. 
  • Fault in logic or argument. You should explain and justify the assumptions of your argument at the beginning. If your argument is sequential, make sure you order it correctly. Be clear about the reasoning in your argument and honest about its limitations.  
  • Failure to conclude properly. You should not introduce new content in the conclusion. Leave a take-home message, summarising the assignment’s salient features. 

Presentation

  • Proofing errors. You might be picked up for spelling, punctuation or overlong sentences/paragraphs. So, read over your answers multiple times before submitting them. Put yourself in the position of the marker and think about whether they would struggle to follow your arguments given the length of your sentences or paragraphs. Reading aloud, or having the Word document do this for you, can help to identify any awkward sentences.  
  • Lack of references. You have not supported arguments and evidence with reference to sources. This means you are potentially guilty of plagiarism. Omitting a bibliography may imply that you have aunsourced piece of work, which will lose you marks. A good idea is to jot down an author, date and page number when you are taking notes from readings as part of your research. Then, include these in the assignment as you write it. 
  • Failure to follow recommended format. Check your course handbook to see if there is a style guide and whether you need to submit a specific cover sheet with your assignment. If you do not do this, you could lose marks.  

 

Bibliography

McMillan, K. and Weyers, J. (2012) The Study Skills Book: Third Edition. Munich: Prentice Hall. ISBN: 9780273773313. 

The University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science (n.d.) ‘Making the Most of Feedback.’ Available at: http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/undergrad/current_students/teaching_and_learning/study_skills/feedback [Accessed on 18th June, 2020] 

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