Enhancing Feedback Enhancing Feedback

Feedback at Edinburgh


The University of Edinburgh is taking measures to enhance the provision of feedback to undergraduate students on their progress and performance. A range of initiatives are being undertaken against a background of evidence from the National Student Survey (NSS) of student concerns in some subject areas about the promptness, amount and helpfulness of feedback on assignments. These local findings reflect both the national NSS findings, where there was less satisfaction with feedback than with any of the other aspects of teaching and learning on which final-year undergraduates’ views had been canvassed (HEFCE, 2007), and other evidence of concerns about feedback from within and beyond the UK (e.g. Carless, 2007; Krause et al., 2005; Hounsell et al., 2008; Nicol, 2009).

Two guiding principles underpin the strategic approach adopted by the university. First, that the effective provision of feedback is highly contingent, varying from task to task, from subject to subject and from one course setting to another. No single measure or strategy is therefore likely to be optimal across the institution. Second, that enhancement initiatives should be evidence-based, drawing on relevant research and scholarship and on documented efforts to improve feedback.


A set of Feedback Standards and Guiding Principles has been drawn up to reflect the University’s culture and ethos whilst also embodying research-derived principles for effective feedback drawn from the global literature.


Meetings with senior academic and support staff in each subject area have been arranged to assist them in reviewing the provision of feedback, devising action plans and promulgating innovative good practices more widely across the University.


This website is also part of the feedback enhancement strategy. It aims to help individuals and groups to take a fresh look at feedback and explore ways in which its provision might be improved, and to share examples of good practice across the University.





Assessment Futures website.  www.assessmentfutures.com.  Accessed 6 Nov. 2009


Carless, D. (2007). Learning-oriented assessment: conceptual bases and practical implications. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 44 (1) pp. 57–66


HEFCE (2007).  2007 Teaching Quality Information Data. Bristol: Higher Education Funding Council for England.  http://www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/nss/data/2007/   


Hounsell, D. (2009) Reshaping feedback and assessment. Academy Connect Issue 3. Higher Education Academy. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/ourwork/ipp/Issue3_full


Hounsell, D.  (2007)  Towards more sustainable feedback to students.  In: Boud, D. and Falchikov, N., eds. Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education.  pp. 101-113.  Oxford: Routledge


Hounsell, D., McCune, V., Hounsell J. and Litjens, J. (2008)  The Quality of Guidance and Feedback to Students.  Higher Education Research and Development, 27 (1)  pp. 55-67


Krause, K., Hartley, R., James, R., & McInnis, C. (2005). The first year experience in Australian universities: Findings from a decade of national studies. Canberra: Australian Department of Education, Science and Training.


Nicol, D.  (2009) Transforming Assessment and Feedback: enhancing integration and empowerment in the first year. Mansfield: QAA.