Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Active Feedback: Teaching, Learning and Assessment Research Seminar
Author: Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL)
Published: 06/09/2022

The SU Teaching Fellows, together with the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), hosted a research seminar for the SU academic community on 25 August 2022. The topic of the seminar was 'active feedback', or 'What if students generate their own feedback?'

The online seminar was presented by two guest speakers, Prof. David Nicol and Suzanne McCallum from the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. Nicol and McCallum collaborate in researching this topic and have published extensively on their findings.  

The seminar focused on the power of comparison in making students' inner feedback visible to them and growing their sense of agency in the process. When students receive feedback comments from a lecturer, they are asked to compare those comments against their work, and they (hopefully) generate new understanding out of that comparison. In this conception of feedback, lecturers provide comments on students' work and students generate (inner) feedback. But what if students were asked to compare their work against information other than lecturers' feedback, for example, a textbook, video, diagram, journal article, rubric or some combination thereof? Research done by Nicol and McCallum shows that, when students are deliberately prompted to do this and to make their inner feedback explicit as well (for example, in writing), the results are remarkable. Not only does this method enhance the depth and scope of students' learning, but, importantly, it also develops their capacity to regulate their own learning, the goal of most higher education programmes. Furthermore, teachers can scale up feedback to all students without scaling up their workload.

Nicol introduced participants to the thinking behind this method and McCallum demonstrated its implementation, using a range of disciplinary examples. It became clear that generating their own feedback enables students to transfer their learning to new contexts. Active feedback is therefore directly linked to learning-centred teaching.

Participants were invited to interact with the presenters throughout the seminar and explored the possible application of active feedback to their modules. They were also invited to research this method further with Nicol and McCallum.

More information about David Nicol and Suzanne McCallum is available from and  ​