Bridging the Feedback Gap

It is a common occurrence to hear staff express concerns about how feedback is used, but it’s often unclear what the expectations around feedback are for both students and staff.

Simon Martin, Department of Materials (AACME), recently a conducted a survey that was aimed at establishing just how much student and staff attitudes to feedback differ, and how these gaps might be bridged. With the help from the Materials’ Programme President, Alex Marrs, a short on-line survey was sent out to students within the Department. Materials staff were invited to take part in an identical survey.
Concerns and issues experienced by staff and students surrounding assessment feedback indicated many similarities and a few differences giving potential clues to ways forward to improve the effectiveness of feedback.

The results of the survey were shared with School staff at a recent lunchtime Learning and Teaching workshop aimed at finding ways to make feedback more relevant, effective and meaningful for students whilst also making it manageable and sustainable for academics to deliver.

AACME’s regular L&T workshops focus on considering, challenging and developing practice.

If you wish to know more about the survey results, methodology and indicated outcomes Simon Martin is happy to be contacted directly ( for further information.

Feedback practice was also the focus of a staff/student Teaching Innovation Award last year in SSEHS. The final report of Harry Lane, Emma Giles, Dr Emma Haycraft and Dr Hilary McDermott’s project ‘Developing a common language: Enhancing communication and feedback’ is available on the 2015 awards section of the CAP website (

Inclusive learning styles with a personal touch – it’s a bit of a nightmare!

So, there I was, in the middle of the night, wide awake, sweating and shaking after a particularly vivid nightmare. In my dream I had been teaching a class and each of the students was wearing a bib like those ones netballers wear. There were four different colours, each with a different letter: V, A, R and K. None of the students were doing any work and when I asked them why not they each demanded that the work be presented in a very particular way to align with their learning style. One said “I’m a visual learner, can I draw you something in response to your question?” Another stated “I’m an aural learner, let’s sit down and discuss what I’m supposed to do”. A third said “don’t ask me to draw you something but I can write it down” As I approached the fourth student with the “K” (for kinaesthetic learner) on his bib I woke up, which was a bit of a relief. How was I meant to deal with these demands and at the same time deliver the content of the module? If I didn’t get it right some, perhaps most of my students would struggle or fail and then there’d be trouble. It was all just too much.

Luckily it was all just a dream, but the issue is still a live one[1]. The issue of learning styles has been around for some time but it is no longer an orthodoxy. Frank Collfield from the Institute of Education along with Kathryn Ecclestone and others wrote a critical review[2] in 2004 which, among other things sought to contest the idea of individuals having simple, stable styles of learning which, if only teachers knew about, would change the way that teaching, learning was delivered. In fact many commentators and writers are now of the view that we probably do our students a disservice by promoting a belief that everyone has a ‘learning style’. John Hattie and Gregory Yates[3] also questioned the learning styles myth, stating:

“We are all visual learners, and we all are auditory learners, not just some of us. Laboratory studies reveal that we all learn when the inputs we experience are multi-modal or conveyed through different media.”

It’s true, I think, that people learn in different ways and probably prefer to learn in different ways, but if they believe they can only learn in one way then they either neglect to develop skills in other areas or convince themselves that they can’t learn in other ways and thus can’t undertake certain tasks, all of which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

How does this affect us in universities with their range of disciplines? If we accept that we all learn things differently in different settings, depending on the tasks involved, then we need to bring this awareness into our teaching. We might acknowledge, for example, that an engineering student will need to use a range of learning styles, depending on whether she’s learning how to talk to clients, take part in a practical activity, assimilate data from a spreadsheet, take notes in a lecture, or work effectively in a multidisciplinary team. Students therefore need to have a clear idea of what’s expected on their taught programmes, rather than simply seeing themselves simply as a “visual”, “auditory” or “kinaesthetic” learner. Arguably, the most successful students are those who can be adaptable in a wide range of learning situations, and develop the confidence to work outside of their comfort zones.

This then is a clear call for inclusive teaching and learning approaches which are what Zhang (2013) calls “malleable[4]”. If we accept that our students have differing needs at different times and our teaching is not only responsive to but anticipates this, then we are more likely to include more of our students in the learning journey and help more of them to succeed. This is not an easy option, but it is the right one I think. Teaching may not always be a dream but it needn’t be a nightmare either!

Other reading:

Timothy J. Landrum & Kimberly A. McDuffie (2010): Learning Styles in the Age of Differentiated Instruction, Exceptionality, 18:1, 6-17 [available to download from ]

Cedar Riener & Daniel Willingham (2010): The Myth of Learning Styles, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42:5, 32-35 [available to download from ]


[1] See Graham Gibbs’ 53 Powerful Ideas:


[3] “Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn” (2014)

[4] “The Malleability of Intellectual Styles” (Zhang, 2013; Cambridge University Press).


The blog is dead – long live the blog!

Merging of the Blogs[Reposted] After over 4 years of regular posting, we’ve now taken the decision to merge the Loughborough E-learning Blog into the Teaching and Learning Blog.

This reflects the fact that e-learning is no longer seen as a standalone activity but is increasingly embedded into mainstream teaching and learning.

There is a wealth of historical posts from both blogs and you can still access these using the search box or the ‘Categories’ drop-down menu.

Please bookmark this new address – or better still, subscribe to the RSS feed!


Your new and improved Co-Tutor is coming – September 2014.

CT_logoFrom 2014/15 a new and improved Co-Tutor will be rolled out across Loughborough. CEDE would like to celebrate and thank the many colleagues that have been involved along the way and will be hosting a launch event on the 24th September 2014 at 12 noon.

Register for the event here:

For the past year Co-Tutor has been undergoing developments as part of a HEIF funded commercialization project.  Phase I of the project has been such a success that the JISC and HEIF are continuing to fund a Phase II of further developments.

Co-Tutor’s new additional features include:

  • Refreshed and responsive new interface, optimized for tablets
  • You can cc’ in to add comments to Co-Tutor straight from your Outlook.
  • Access more information within a student’s record, e.g. timetables and Learn activity.

The Co-Tutor team would like to welcome Charles Shields, Jenny Narborough and Sasha Dosanjh (E-Learning team) to Loughborough’s support team.  They will be the first point of contact for enquiries and training.  Allison Dunbobbin (Careers and Employability Centre) will also be on hand to support the placement management features within Co-Tutor.

For more information on new features and upcoming events and further announcements see

Changes to TurnItIn for next year

The Learn interface to TurnItIn is changing next year.  When the new edition of Learn is released on July 22nd, all TurnItIn assignments will need to be re-created for the new session.  This is no different from previous years, although the software will look slightly different (see: Changes to Turnitin ).

A six-slide PowerPoint presentation is available to show students how to submit coursework using the new TurnItIn assignment.  It may be added to a module as a standalone resource or incorporated into a lecture presentation.

  • If your module uses a TurnItIn assignment activity, a new instance of the activity will need to be created in the 2014-15 module, just as you should have created a new activity last year.
  • The new TurnItIn assignments will be created with a new version of the software, and work through a new TurnItIn account.
  • As usual, students involved in the SAP will use last year’s edition of Learn (which will be called Learn13) and the old 2013 TurnItIn assignments will still work.

University Calendar 2014-15

University Calendar (for staff) 2014-15Clare Wright (Senior Administrative Assistant, Mathematics Education Centre) has kindly made the University Calendar 2014/2015 available for use by all staff – this resource is accessible in pdf format via University Calendar (for staff) 2014-15.

Further details regarding next academic year – including information from Student Enquiries with regard to Semester and term dates and from Human Resources in relation to holidays (please go to “Holidays: Public/Customary 2013/14/15″) – are also available online.

Graham Gibbs on student engagement

THEThe latest Times Higher Education contribution by Graham Gibbs is concerned with ‘student engagement’, a term which he sees as ubiquitous, before asking us to consider what it actually means, and whether it might help to improve learning. There is never a shortage of food for thought, reflection, and action when it comes to this author. For more information on this piece, go to Student Engagement, the latest buzzword. Let the conversation continue in earnest!



Europeana – think culture

europeanaFor those of you who have not browsed through Europeana before, and you are in anyway interested in European history, culture, film, etc., you are in for a treat!

Describing themselves in their Factsheet Europeana – facts and figures as “the doorway to the digital resources of Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections”, users are encouraged to do the following:

“Discover, share in, re-use and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage. Books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, sheet music and recordings and much more. From The Girl with the Pearl Earring, to Newton’s Laws of Motion, from the music of Mozart to the TV news of times gone by – you can find it all in Europeana”.

Previous newsletters, as well as newsletter subscription details, are accessible via, while the RSS feed is available at – also see for more details.

XLR Audio into iPad



For those of you who are more adventurous and have wondered if it were possible to have an XLR audio input to an iPad then the answer is yes. As you probably know there appears to be only a headphone out on an iPad but no mic input.

However the headphone out can be used as a mic input with the right connection.  A company called IK Multimedia produce a device called iRig.

This little device sells for £23.99 on Amazon and is easy to set up. Its powered by a Duracell 9V or similar. You can hook up any professional device i.e. the Sennheiser radio mic receivers for classroom/lecture room recording. It even has 48V Phantom power which allows a huge number of condenser mics to be used. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket.

First impression: very good for the price. No distortion, clean sound, excellent for lecture recordings. No software needed unless you want it but you do get access to a couple of Apps which I haven’t used.

I used it with the App ‘Explain Everything’ and all worked well.

Changes to Jisc funding

[from Jisc press release 12/09/13]

Jisc, the UK charity which provides digital services for education and research, is today writing to UK universities to outline proposed refinements to the organisation’s funding model.

Since the publication of Sir Alan Wilson’s review of Jisc in February 2011 it has enhanced its integration with the sector to deliver products and services developed around its needs. With the balance of higher education funding moving from grants to subscriptions, Jisc funding needs to evolve similarly. The changes mean that Jisc’s existing subscription model for the Janet network will be refined, with the proposed change coming into effect from the start of the academic year 2014-15.

This will ensure that universities continue to benefit from a world class research and education network, negotiated rich and up-to-date online collections, best practice advice on many different areas and targeted research and development.

Explaining the changes, Martyn Harrow, Jisc chief executive said, “Jisc’s funding has decreased over the past few years and will continue to do so. We have made efficiency improvements meaning that Jisc will absorb the majority of these financial reductions without threatening any of the core services on which the sector depends.

“We are currently writing to all higher education institutions setting out details of these changes and the implications for their 2014-15 budgets. There should be minimal change in the further education and skills sectors, and we will be communicating in due course to clarify the position for this sector.”

Commenting on these changes Nicola Dandridge, chief executive, UUK said, “UUK recognises the importance and value of Jisc and the work it does across the higher education, further education and skills sectors to support the use of digital technologies. We are fully supportive of the new sector driven governance model for the organisation and the work that has been done to shape Jisc to be leaner, better value, and even more focused operationally and strategically on the true wants and needs of the sector.”

Each year Jisc saves the sectors it serves around £260m – three times its operating costs – in direct savings and cost avoidance, in effect saving each individual institution many times its own subscription. In addition to these efficiencies, Jisc will minimise the impact of the shift by creating the largest VAT cost sharing group in the UK meaning that institutions will not pay VAT on future Jisc subscriptions.  

“We know the financial pressure all our institutions are under, so we will continue to look at the way Jisc works and will constantly strive to improve our services. In his review Sir Alan Wilson described Jisc as a ‘national asset’, these changes will ensure that learners and researchers – both on and off campus – continue to have instant access to an unrivalled research and education network,  as well as vital collections and resources that are of immense benefit to them,” said Martyn.