Self-generated feedback

The learner role in feedback processes is probably even more important than the teacher role. Self-generated feedback (also known as internal feedback) denotes the thoughts that all students generate for themselves during production. The effectiveness of this self-generated feedback marks one of the key differences between high achieving and low achieving students. A key teacher role is to design learning environments in which students are primed to develop self-generated feedback in increasingly productive ways. The means through which this is done is by engineering opportunities for students to compare their own work-in-progress with multiple other attempts at a similar task, draw comparisons and then improve their final product.

The main strategies for operationalizing these processes are through principled research-informed implementation of student peer review, and analyzing exemplars in relation to student work-in-progress. Through analyzing the work of others, students identify strengths, problems and possible solutions. They naturally compare their own production with those of others, and also can be stimulated to make these comparisons more explicit. This is typically enacted through a teaching and learning sequence such as the following:

  • students draft a response to an assessment task;
  • students review and comment on multiple other attempts at the same task;
  • students compare their own production with that of the other work they reviewed;
  • and students revise their own work in light of the comparisons they have generated.

Learner self-generated feedback forms part of conceptions of feedback which are positioned more broadly than teacher or peer comments on student performance. Students are in control of their own development when they are actively involved in self-generated feedback processes. Teachers adopt roles of motivating, coaching and facilitating opportunities for students to use self-generated feedback effectively. Student roles lie mainly in using other work to stimulate the natural comparisons they can make with their own production. Learning through comparisons is one of the key elements of self-generated feedback.

Key reading:
Carless, D. (2020). From teacher transmission of information to student feedback literacy: Activating the learner role in feedback processes. Active Learning in Higher Education.

Nicol, D. (2019). Reconceptualising feedback as an internal not an external process. Italian Journal of Educational Research.