News details

Jess McNamara

Last Edit

Ask the Advocate: Feedback literacy

What seems like a very long time ago, back in February, we had our Feedback Literacy Forum 2020 for students and staff. Hosted by Will and Thomas from BSA, the day became more informal and more conversational and exploratory as it progressed.

What did we learn? What do we want to do next?

Our key speakers included students, course coordinators, elected student leaders, student advocates, subject coordinators, and researchers in feedback literacy. Speakers were beginning their University trajectory; others were established and renowned in their field, globally. But we all shared a common passion: how can we make University life better for each and every person?

Our humanity defines us. We need to believe we belong, that we are liked and respected, and that our life has purpose and meaning. This is all about the relationships we have with the people around us. In the context of University, as students, we need to believe we can ‘do’ Uni, that our course is right for us, and we are accepted as part of our cohort. As academics and administrators, we work with our colleagues and with students. We need to believe we have the qualifications and experience to make us ‘worthy’ of our position, that we are respected for the value we bring to our position, and we contribute meaningfully to research, student learning and experience, and/or the running of the University. This then, is a lot about our self-perceptions, self-efficacy, self-identity and self-judgement.

Feedback from others contributes to and guides our self-beliefs. In the University context, feedback helps us to learn from experiences. We reflect, and act. In the learning space, whether that’s a physical classroom, lab, or online Zoom session, we are both providing and receiving feedback constantly. The educator observes the students’ faces, listens to the tone of voice and inflections in speech, questions or comments and choice of vocabulary. Is there understanding or not? The student interprets the educator’s face. Are they pleased or displeased with what I just said? Is my question valid? Am I on the right track? What should I do with this? We ask questions. We take on advice and act on it. We have to fill out surveys about our subjects and lecturers.

But, is feedback helpful? Does it make us better learners or educators? Can feedback enhance our sense of belonging? If it does, how?

Feedback literacy is identified as an essential skillset for students, academics and administrators. Without an understanding of feedback we become ‘stuck’. It is important to know how to provide feedback, how to receive and how to act on it. Without these skills our professional relationships are vulnerable, and our capacity for learning and teaching potentially will be reduced. Cross-institutional research underpins these statements.

The Feedback Literacy Forum 2020 was a discussion about all of these concepts and provided real world examples of experiences with feedback from all perspectives.
The participants identified important actions going forward. One of these was to continue the discussion, with another opportunity to gather and talk within the year. The second action was to form a Working Party about how we can embed feedback literacy within our teaching and learning. The third was to develop a feedback literacy research project within the La Trobe Rural Health School, Bendigo, as a potential pilot for the whole of La Trobe University.

With COVID-19 and restrictions, these actions were paused. We are now looking at taking the first steps in making them happen. If you would like to be involved or you have comments on the above, please email Michelle or Ron