How to: Feedback
It is snowing. Anyways, today’s post will be about a really important part of your academic experience: giving and receiving feedback. This is a topic that the PAIS department takes very seriously, and I cannot stress enough how vital it is for your time here! I’ll divide the post in four section: why feedback is important (on both sides); the different ways in which you can get feedback for your own academic journey; how you can give your own views to the department; and how PAIS in particular receives and uses feedback.
1. The importance of feedback
Feedback is, essentially, what keeps us going and positively evolving. During your time at university, you will get plenty of feedback, and you will be encouraged to provide the department and the university with feedback as well. It is a mutual relationship of evolvement.
Receiving feedback seems like an obvious right: we need to know what we are doing well, and what we are doing not so well. We need to know what it is we need to improve, what works, words of encouragement and points to work on.
The same, perhaps not so obviously, applies to your department. In order for it to evolve for the better, it needs to hear about your experience, what works, what doesn’t, and how it can improve.
This also helps establish good relationships of trust with the department, which is always good! For PAIS, it is not by chance that ‘office hours’ have been renamed Advice and Feedback: it is a perfect opportunity to foster these relationships and give each other useful advice.
2. The ways you get feedback
PAIS is one of the few departments to give individual written feedback for every single piece of work you do (formatives, summatives, exams). It is a truly fantastic and useful resource: it helps you understand with depth and clarity your strengths and weaknesses and how to improve in the future. I always keep all the written feedback I have received and keep track of my progress. All feedback sheets include the name of your marker (this is relevant for exams and summative essays, when it is not necessarily your own seminar tutor to mark), so that you can further discuss your performance with them. Overall, I would suggest not to be afraid to ask for more clarification on your result and the written comments the marker has made!
You can talk about your progress with your personal tutor, who is able to see all your marks, or your seminar tutors, who can give you a more in-depth reflection on how you are doing in their particular module. They can also give you feedback for essay plans – they are allowed to have a look a plan of up to a page and let you know their opinion on the structure.
Throughout your time here, there will be plenty of opportunities to get even more personalised feedback. For instance, we have just had the PAIS Undergraduate Dissertation Conference taking place, where those who wished could present their research so far. The presentations were organised into panels, each chaired by a member of the department who gave extremely useful feedback to the presenters. It was an informal, yet incredibly effective environment!
If feedback isn’t clear enough, ask. Don’t be afraid of asking for constructive criticism. I completely understand if only the thought makes you panic – I am very bad at handling any sort of criticism. But once you acknowledge that it is a necessary feature to evolve for the better, you need to try and make the most out of it. Go and have one-on-one feedback sessions, or send out emails: establish a real contact with people within the department, or even peers, and never cease to attempt to improve!
3. How to give feedback
At PAIS, there are plenty of opportunities to providing your feedback.
– One-on-one chats with people within the department: in particular, your personal tutor, module directors, and seminar tutors. I would especially recommend talking to Justin, our Director of Student Experience and Progression, or anyone in the department you feel could benefit from your feedback.
– If chats don’t work for you, email! Again, it’s very important for the department to hear what you have to say in any way that is convenient for you.
– You can have a chat with your course reps and members of the SSLC, who can raise your issues to the committee.
– The National Student Survey. This only happens in your final year, and is really important for the department to get a wide range of feedback and opinions and effectively act on them. In the next section, you can read about some of the many initiatives taken because of feedback gathered by the NSS.
– Check your emails! There are plenty of opportunities to give any sort of feedback to the department coming into your inbox weekly. From invitations to providing comments on the Student Surveys Action Plan (check your recent emails!), to Wine & Cheese events to informally chat to members of the department – regularly check and take advantage of the many opportunities you have to make your voice heard!
4. How PAIS acts on your feedback
If you are a PAIS student, you have probably noticed how much the department cares about hearing our feedback and acting upon it. The Facebook page is currently posting daily slides titled ‘Fifteen Outcomes of Your Feedback’, which I would recommend checking out! Here’s a few: PAIS developed a clearer and more useful marking criteria connected to transferable skills, expanded working opportunities within the department, introduced more academic support on Masters, essay and revision workshops, introduced a £1000 fee reduction on PAIS MA programmes for alumni, and increased the choice in modules, both 30 and 15 CATs. The list goes on, and it’s all thanks to – you guessed it – your feedback!
In summary, I’d like to go back to what I said at the beginning: it is very much about a mutual relationship between student and staff to evolve positively and successfully.
I hope you all have a lovely rest of the week, and remember I am here for any questions (and… feedback.)!