An interesting question to ask a student is: “what advice would you give to a fellow student about working with TMA feedback?” TMA feedback is, of course, the feedback that a student receives after collecting their marked Tutor Marked Assessment.
This question is one of several that are explored through a scholarship project that has the title Developing student use of feedback on their marked TMAs which was led by staff tutors Carol Calvert and Colette Christiansen, and Clare Morris who was the AL lead on the project.
A summary of some of their research findings was shared to colleagues through a discussion forum. It struck me that their findings (which takes the form of practical advice) was so useful, I thought it might be helpful to share their findings more widely.
Before looking at the specific points, it is worth emphasising that TMA feedback is typically given in two different ways: through a coversheet (an eTMA form, which is sometimes called a PT3 summary) which offers students with an overview of how they have done (which is typically forward looking), and comments that have been directly provided on a submitted assignment (which is feedback that relates to work that has been done).
Here are Carol, Colette and Clare's collection of useful points:
Collecting and using your TMA feedback – advice from your fellow students
Reading the feedback on your marked TMA can be a bit nerve-racking, but it can also be a really important part of your learning. A recent survey produced a great deal of valuable advice from students, which we’re sharing with you here. All the quotes in green are taken directly from comments by students – and they’re just representative examples of topics which were mentioned dozens of times. This is the voice of experience!
Some preliminary advice – doing and handing in the TMA
- Complete the dummy TMA [i.e., TMA00]
- Make sure to read all the guidance about submitting TMAs well in advance
- Attempt the TMA as soon as possible, and work on it as you go along, straight after completing the relevant unit.
- Make sure to keep in mind when your assessments are due in, you don't want to have to rush anything.
- Plan your time and keep disciplined! Once you fall behind, it's tough to get back on track, so don't let it happen.
- Make a plan and keep it realistic
- Read the question, answer the question, then read the question again! – but don’t over-think it.
- Know that the time you spend on learning will pay off and don’t give up.
- Do what it says on the tin and you can't go far wrong
Picking up your marked TMA…
- Download the pack [that is, your marked script plus the summary sheet] from the website to save alongside the submission.
- Print them so easier to refer to. Use for revision.
- keep all feedback downloaded to use later, keep it stored
… reading and making use of the feedback…
- Read the feedback initially then go back the next day once emotions surrounding marks have subsided. Read, and review, then revisit the comments a few days later
- Read through the comments thoroughly and talk to a friend or family member about any mistakes you have made (or things you are particularly proud of), and how you can improve. This helps to keep the feedback in your head, so you have it at hand when tackling the next TMA.
- Look at the feedback as soon as possible so that you can keep on top of any errors/feedback for completing the next TMA and improving your marks.
- even if you score highly there is value in reviewing the feedback as tutors will also comment on things such as the style and formatting of the document which can be useful when setting out future assignments.
- Focus on applying the feedback given rather than focusing on your assessment score
- Take any general advice on board. It can provide easy extra marks throughout the rest of your studies if you fix general issues on how you show your working or answer written questions.
- Make use of it. You might be annoyed at first to have dropped marks, but turn it into a positive and learn from your mistakes
- Take your time to consider the feedback - then redo that part using the feedback provided
- Take notes of your feedback to refer back to
- go back to it as many times as needed
- read the feedback numerous times to take it in properly to be able to use it effective in future TMA's because it is a brilliant resource to support you to improve
- have the feedback handy for the next attempt at an TMA.
…maybe feeling a bit upset by the comments…
- Don't take it personally, use it as fuel for doing even better in your next assignment.
- It's for your own good. If you don't know where you are going wrong, how do you expect to improve?
- accept it constructively, it is really helpful
- Don't get too hung up on it
- Try not to get too upset if your mark isn't as high as you'd hope or wanted
- [remember] that it is given to encourage and help them
- Making a mistake and receiving feedback for the mistake is an efficient way for an improvement. So, appreciate it rather than being disappointed
- Take your time to process the feedback, don't allow your emotions to cloud your judgement.
And if you don’t understand something your tutor has written…
- don't be afraid to ask your tutor for clarification, especially if you think they're wrong! (you may need help realising you've gotten the wrong idea about something)
- Don’t be shy to ask for help from your tutor
- Make the most of having an assigned tutor
- If you want really clear feedback, you should ask clear questions to your tutor yourself.
re-read the feedback from previous TMAs before submitting the next to ensure that you have learned from past mistakes and the feedback was not given in vain
And above all, remember…
TMAs are about much more than marking!
Many thanks to Carol, Clare and Collette for giving me permission to share their summary. Their research was carried out within and funded by eSTEeM: the OU centre for STEM pedagogy.