Feedback Matters | Consistency and Continuity

Edword
2 min readOct 14, 2020

TIME SAVING — is that the most important reason to use a feedback solution other than a red marker? No, it is not. It is nice, but the key reason is that it is better for students.

Our breakthrough success was introducing the comment bank almost ten years ago. Our most successful users have taken library comments to heart. Are they successful because they have saved time? Not really. That is mistaking the side benefit for the result. They are successful because the use of library comments ensures consistency for the students receiving the feedback. They are successful because they experience better learning outcomes compared to writing every comment uniquely.

From a learning perspective there are a number of consistency benefits that stem from how library comments improve feedback uptake, but this tends to not be in focus because “saving time” steals the spotlight, so let us try to shed some light on the benefits of consistency.

The case for consistency

Based on practical experiences from schools through k-12 and higher education, we zoom in on four standard feedback scenarios.

One assignment — same issue — different comments
If the same issue is commented on in different ways to the same student in the same hand-in, it is likely that the student will not realize it is the same. That results in missed learning potential.

Examples: In essence these two comments say the same thing.

Different assignments
When instructors receive multiple hand-ins from the same student consistency over time — continuity — is essential for students to relate feedback comments on this hand-in to feedback comments on previous hand-ins. Like in all other learning contexts, recognition and repetition are key.

Different students
Students do and should talk to classmates about the feedback they receive. It is an important part of their uptake of feedback. If the same issue is not commented on the same way to different students, they may not recognize that it is the same, in consequence that part of uptake will not happen.

Different teachers
Students take different courses. Students know students from other classes. They have siblings. Parents have children with different teachers. Large differences in feedback can be a key source of frustration.

In all four scenarios standardization by means of library comments would have been better in terms of feedback uptake and learning outcome, whereas writing every comment uniquely would not only have been inefficient in terms of time spent, but would probably not even have achieved better results.

Obviously there is also a case to be made against overdoing it with consistency in feedback. This will be the topic of one of the next posts in this blog.

For now. There is no irreconcilable conflict between saving time and improving learning outcome. Quite the contrary actually!

Be consistent. Use library comments to make sure your Feedback Matters!

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