Effective Feedback in Economics





On the agenda for October's EconEdChat were 3 questions:

1) How can we support students applying to study Economics-related University courses?

2) What does effective feedback in Economics look like?

3) How can we teach Behavioural Economics?


This post focusses on the second question. You can read about the first here





References and Resources

Andrew mentions Dylan Wiliam, who has written several seminal publications on feedback, (for example, see Inside the Black Box)


At 3:15ish I'm reading from the written chat so it's not completely clear if you're watching the video. Gavin was saying how he found it useful that VLEs allow you to go back to previous pieces of work, either to see progression and comments you've already given, or to store work (with students' permission) to use as examples of what good or not so good work looks like.


Manisha mentions doing a gap analysis, which she pre-prints on the front of papers for students to do themselves. I mention that in the past I have done something like this. On one hand, thinking carefully how I'm going to allocate marks before I start marking makes the process quicker over all and means I'm more consistent. It would be easy to use this as a digital rubric on a VLE. Students can also clearly see why they lost marks and this helps with their 'corrections'. (I used to insist every major paper was corrected so I could see the difference between what they didn't get in the exam because of exam technique/time problems/poor recall vs what they don't understand, rather than just assuming, although now I'm not sure whether that's just improving the piece of work rather than the student themselves - needs more thought I think ). On the other hand, I'm aware that I was really reducing an already very prescriptive mark scheme into an even more prescriptive one, and that actually my strict interpretation is unlikely to not match the exam boards', so I could just be ingraining poor exam technique.


We mention Whole Class feedback - after several iterations, I ended up with this Whole Class Feedback Sheet, which then went in a folder so I could refer back to if necessary (or for evidence, although that's generally not needed any more). It worked well enough for me - I'd pick out examples from the 'praise' bit to whack on the visualiser if I think it would help (or examples of misconceptions, too), but now the increased use of VLEs means you have more options here, eg copying into powerpoint etc. (Here's the stuff I've written on visualisers.)


Daisy Christodoulou, queen of assessment, is mentioned.


We sort of lumped Jamboard, padlet and whiteboard.fi together but there are some differences between them. Padlet is more of a curation tool, which might be a little redundant now most of us has VLEs with 'streams'. Jamboard, I think, is specific to Google Classroom and is a bit of a crossover between an interactive powerpoint (in that it has slide-like pages) and OneNote (in that you different users can write on the same page). whiteboard.fi is different in that that each student has a their own 'whiteboard' and you can see all of their screens at once, so this could potentially be useful for diagrams etc.



I forgot to mention it, but when I first started teaching Economics A-Level (with no Econ teaching training, in a brand new sixth form, in a department of 1...) I spent a while thinking about what made one answer better than another. Coming from Maths, where judging the quality of work, at least on a basic level, is fairly straightforward, I was struggling a bit. So I went through every examiners report, mark scheme and examiner training document I could get my hands on and came up with this.


Students built up a bit of a portfolio for every skill - a bit like how you (used to? I don't know how it's done these days...) build up a portfolio against each teacher standard when you're a trainee. We wouldn't work on every section every time, but when students had various assignments, we'd pick out a few skills to work on - sometimes I'd determine which skills we'd be looking at, sometimes they would pick based on what they needed to work on.


Some elements were good: it was really useful for writing reports and students were pretty clear on what they had to do to improve (according to the rubric, at least). It focussed them on the feedback that they could apply to future assignments. The process of making it forced me to have a really good look at mark schemes.


However, now I look at it and I cringe. My interpretations were so incredibly superficial (there's a bit on handwriting?! I think I put that in because I had one student who consistently lost marks because no one could read what he wrote, but still... Also essay writing is reduced to a ridiculously simplistic structure. The list goes on....). It wasn't ideal admin wise, although my class was small and my system was very basic - I'm sure VLEs could get around this. The biggest issue, however, is that the feedback didn't teach them much, if any, actual economics. As Andrew mentioned in the chat, many issues in student's work fundamentally come from not fully grasping the content, and this didn't really address that. It's conceivable that if you had a really high quality rubric, based on the disciplinary skills we value in economics, it could maybe have some value, but in this form, it's pretty worthless.


Something else we didn't mention, was Yousuf Hamid's blog post on feedback in Econ, which you should also check out.



I think that's everything we referenced, but if we talk about something in the video and it's not clear, let me know and I'll add extra references!


Econ Ed Chat takes place the first Wednesday of the month at 6pm BST. All welcome.