Feedback on Feedback/OG

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Feedback on Feedback
Contributors Denise Whitelock, Harvey Mellar
Last modification May 15, 2017
Source Whitelock & Mellar (2014)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Feedback given to learners should provide opportunities to improve the learning experience. It should comprise constructive feedback to improve learning as well as socio-emotive feedback. Tutors in large courses often resort to grading devoid of effective feedback. To support them in improving their feedback, they need effective feedback on the feedback they give.


Effective feedback needs to:

– alert learners to their weaknesses

– diagnose the causes and dynamics of these weaknesses

– include operational suggestions for opportunities to improve the learning experience

– address socio-emotive factors.

Tutors may be aware of all these issues, but they still need guidance in structuring their feedback. Often, either from a lack of knowledge or limited resources, they resort to feedback which only covers the first requirement – that is they alert learners to their weaknesses. In order to improve their feedback, tutors need to be provided with effective feedback on the feedback they give to their students. This should be provided as close as possible to the event in order to allow them to adapt their strategies and recover from their mistakes. However, in large courses with many tutors it is a challenge to bring this about.


This problem arises particularly in the context of large scale, technology supported, assessed courses where many tutors are instructing a large number of students. Such courses aim to provide both grading and formative feedback, and the tutors need support in order to provide effective feedback, but resources for individual mentoring of the tutors are not always available. Feedback in these contexts is often mediated by technology and therefore can be captured and processed in real time.


The solution to this problem is to embed a mechanism in the learning and teaching system that regularly captures tutor feedback, analyses it, and presents the findings as a visual display or dashboard. Ideally, the analytical display should also include constructive advice as to how to shift from less to more effective forms of feedback.

In computer supported environments (e.g. VLEs), this mechanism could be integrated into the system, providing tutors with immediate analysis of their feedback, as well as long-term aggregates.

In unmediated environments (e.g. face to face classrooms), the same mechanism can be implemented by cross-observations between tutors, using a printed feedback tracking form.



The source for the pattern Feedback on Feedback (Feedback on Feedback) is the design narrative ‘Open Mentor’.[2]

Supporting Cases

A number of supporting cases which helped to develop this pattern are described in Whitelock[3].

Theoretical justification

Black et al. [4] argue that ‘An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information to be used as feedback by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves and each other, to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs’ (p. 2). The focus on teacher adaptation of pedagogy as one criterion of formative assessment emphasizes a potentially long cycle of teacher learning which then impacts on student learning, though in some learning contexts there may be an immediate effect. There may be limited or no immediate gains for learners in some contexts, where teacher learning needs to adapt to more complex types of change. Although ‘immediacy’ is a feature of the concept of ‘moments of contingency’[5] in this pattern what is ‘contingent’ may also have longer-term developmental consequences for pedagogy as well as having immediate consequences.


  1. Whitelock, D. & Mellar, H. (2014). Pattern: Blended Evaluation. In Mor, Y., Mellar, H., Warburton, S., & Winters, N. (Eds.). Practical design patterns for teaching and learning with technology (pp. 311-313). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  2. Whitelock, D. (2014). Design Narrative: Open Mentor. In Mor, Y., Mellar, H., Warburton, S., & Winters, N. (Eds.). Practical design patterns for teaching and learning with technology (pp. 263-268). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  3. Whitelock, D. (2006). Computer Assisted Formative Assessment (CAFA): An investigation into the pedagogical push and technological pull for designing holistic e-assessment. Retrieved December 18, 2011, from
  4. Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2003). The nature and value of formative assessment for learning. Improving Schools, 6(3), 7–22.
  5. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5–31.