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Learning how to learn
Learning how to learn

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7.2 Learning from feedback

This is actually quite a difficult thing for any student to do. It is most effective when your assignment is returned, but by then you may have moved on to the next part of the course. Even so, you do need to make time to re-visit your assignment when it is returned and take note of your tutor's comments. It is the one time when your tutor is able to give feedback and advice to you as an individual student so it is well worth taking time to really absorb their comments. Try to separate those that are about what you have included in your assignment from those about how you have presented it. Assignments that give you a clear indication of the criteria used in grading may enable you to learn more effectively from the assessment process, but some tutors explain their own criteria and you should note this carefully.

Even if you have now moved to a new topic, your tutor's comments may aid your revision of the topic. More importantly, there may also be immediate advice that you could act on and incorporate into your next and any future assignments, thus enhancing your grades. For students, a great deal of learning takes place through completing assignments and getting feedback from their tutor. This, like self-assessment, is a crucial part of the process of learning how to learn.

Activity 11

If you sent a form to your tutor, put aside some time to complete Part B when your assignment is returned.


Here is Tim's form, completed when he had read his tutor's comments on the assignment.

  • 6 My tutor's comments on this assignment:

    • I got 58%.

    • What I wrote was well structured and coherent.

    • I could write less about the topic in a general way and spend more time with my focus on answering the question asked. For example I could have done more on 'compare and contrast' in order to make my essay more analytical.

    • Equal weight needed on discussion of both characters.

    • I should consider reading for a purpose - might save time and aid focus.

    • I could try to complete essay well before due date - spend more time on editing.

  • 7 My response to those comments:

    • I must say that I felt a bit miffed about the 'focus' bit - a bit fed-up and worried that I'll never get to grips with the literature. I'm still having problems with the 'answering the question' bit. I do keep to the topic but I don't do all that I'm supposed to. I've swallowed my pride and looked back through script (not easy to do as I'm anxious to get on to the next bit rather than go back over mistakes). Can't really take issue with my tutor's comments. I've read Bob's essay - he got 75% and I do see that there was more focus and more balance. Thought about the 'reading for a purpose' comment and looked in the Arts Good Study Guide. I've been nervous about doing this - worried I'll leave something out. It's probably worth a try though - anything, rather than get so bogged down with material! I know I've been rushing the editing lately - it's because things are hectic at work. If I'm honest I sent both of my last essays off without spending enough time on the editing stage. The word limit is getting higher so I do need to take care. I've looked back over this course and I realise that I've had problems with selecting material for the essay right from the beginning. Despite my concerns, this has been time well spent.

  • 8 Two things I am going to try to do next time:

    • (a) Read the essay question and notes first, work out what I have to do and try to read with this in the back of my mind.

    • (b) Try doing skeleton essay from my notes in order to get focus right (and not get bogged down in detail). Then go back to course units for examples, checks for accuracy etc.

Now file this form with the assignment and refer to it when you start work on your next one. Then keep it to help with revision.

Sue also sent her form to her tutor who wrote some notes in section 6 before returning her assignment.

  • 6 My tutor's comments on this assignment:

    • Q1 essay: A very good essay, well structured and well written. You compared and contrasted well too, so full marks for style and presentation. Remember to back up all the points you make with evidence and, to get even more marks, explain why and how the examples you give are good ones in supporting the points.

    • Q2: Part (a) full marks.

    • Parts (b) and (c): have another look at the tables here. You needed to bear in mind the data missing for some patients.

    • Part (d) designed to get you to really think and apply what you have learned to new data. If, when you've had time to digest my comments you still are unsure, do phone me.

  • 7 My response to those comments:

    • Q1: Really pleased with this. Drawing up the grid as an essay plan helped me compare and contrast rather than just describe and discuss.

    • Q2: Fair comments. Need more practice at this for future courses. Won't worry too much for exam though, as that is just computer-marked assignment-type and essays.

  • 8 Two things I am going to try to do next time:

    • (a) Keep doing essay plans and reading the precise wording of the questions.

    • (b) Remember that short answer questions are graded in difficulty and change my thinking strategy for the later parts of them.

Now file this form with the assignment and refer to it when you start work on your next one. Then keep it to help with revision.

If you decided not to send a form to your tutor, you can still benefit from looking carefully at the feedback you have been given on your assignment. You could use the instructions below to review your assignment and your tutor's comments on it.

What to do when your assignment comes back: how to gain maximum benefit from it

Assignments are not designed only for assessment - although most of them are marked in some way, they can count towards a final continuous assessment score or grade.

Working on an assignment is an active learning process from which you can gain a great deal. It is important to maximise the value of this.

When tutors receive your assignments they don't just grade them: they are normally expected to give you feedback and advice which will help you to improve your performance.

To get full benefit from your assignment, you'll need to engage with their comments and respond to them. If you do get in the habit of doing this to all your assignments, you'll learn far more from the whole exercise.


  1. You'll probably look first at the grade - most people do - and this may arouse some feelings:

    • if you've done better than you expected, you'll feel relieved
    • if it's worse than you expected, you'll feel disappointed
    • if it's much lower than you anticipated, you might feel angry or insulted.

    There's nothing wrong with these feelings but they will affect your learning, so put the assignment away until your next study session.

    • In your next study session, allow yourself about 20–30 minutes to work on it; do this even if you're now on to new work.
    • Read the feedback and comments from your tutor.
    • Make yourself read through each question, stopping to read the comments. Sometimes tutors put these on a separate sheet so you can refer to it as you read.
    • Mark (in a different coloured pen) your responses to what your tutor has written; anything you agree or disagree with; anything you don't understand.
    • When you've finished re-reading, think about the grade again. If you're still unhappy, make a note to ask about it.
    • Go back to the feedback and comments from your tutor and re-read it. Can you understand what your tutor is saying.
    • On a separate sheet of paper or at the end of the assignment write down one or two main points - pieces of advice; mistakes you see you made; things to remember - points which you need to bear in mind when you write the next assignment or when you revise for your exam.
    • Make a note of anything that still puzzles you; comments which confuse you; criticism you feel is unjustified etc.
    • Arrange to speak to your tutor about your work. Either take your notes or assignment to your next tutorial, or contact your tutor by phone or email. Make sure you both have a copy of the assignment to refer to.

At the end of every assignment you should be able to identify at least one thing that will help you to improve your performance. Then file your notes away ready for revision.

Learning from feedback is probably the most critical activity in the process of learning how to learn. Continuous assessment is not just a mechanism for judging your performance as a student, it is also meant to be part of the process of learning. But it can only contribute to learning how to learn if you, the learner, engage with this part of the process.