Behind the scenes at CRADLE’s Feedback Literacy Symposium

You’ve seen the recording of what went on publicly at our CRADLE in Conversation panel on feedback literacy. But that event was just one part of a bigger, multi-day, invite-only symposium, ‘Advancing research in student feedback literacy’. As one of the symposium chairs, I’m here to give you the inside scoop about what went on behind closed doors.

This wasn’t the first CRADLE invitational symposium. We’ve held three others, on evaluative judgement, assessment in a digital world, and the impact of feedback. Each of these led to an edited book (or will lead to one very soon). But for this symposium we wanted to take a different approach: to nurture the writing of journal articles that move feedback literacy forward.

Why not another edited book? Firstly, it’s a competitive field in the feedback book space right now, with participants in the symposium having collectively authored/edited three excellent works that have been keeping us busy already:

  1. The Cambridge Handbook of Instructional Feedback, edited by Anastasiya Lipnevich and Jeff Smith
  2. The Impact of Feedback in Higher Education, edited by Michael Henderson, Rola Ajjawi, David Boud and Elizabeth Molloy
  3. Designing Effective Feedback Processes in Higher Education: A Learning-Focused Approach, by Naomi Winstone and David Carless

Secondly, we wanted to get this idea of feedback literacy out there as broadly as possible, through open-access articles in top journals. There was some debate within the team about the relative merits of journal articles vs edited books… I’m on ‘team journal article’ but I can see the merits of a carefully-curated collection of chapters.

Group photograph of CRADLE 2019 International Symposium delegates

CRADLE International Symposium 2019 delegates

Another big difference from our usual symposium style was that, at this symposium, the attendees co-constructed new paper ideas at the symposium. While we’ve had some great sessions in the past,where people have come along and presented about the chapter they want to contribute, I’ve always gotten the sense that we didn’t make the most out of the collaborative opportunities of being together. For this symposium there was no series of PowerPoint presentations to watch – instead, there was lots of time to work together.

This time around we managed to sidestep the ‘what is feedback?’ argument we had at our previous symposium. But that didn’t mean there were no arguments. There was still a familiar schism between the educational psychologists and the educationalists. Is feedback literacy really a thing? Can it actually be defined tightly enough that it can be measured? What types of measurement should be used? Does something have to be measurable to be useful? These and other arguments really helped to sharpen up our understandings of feedback literacy and set some useful research agendas for the future.

So, where to next for feedback literacy? You can expect a bunch of open access research papers, grant submissions, and international collaborations in the near future. And all of this will feed into work with educators at Deakin and beyond into how we can improve students’ capability to make the most of feedback. Stay tuned!

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