Smash your study goals with regular feedback on the go


Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on student learning. It has a stronger link to achievement than any other teaching behaviour, and is crucial during the first year of university.

You’re probably familiar with the positive effects of feedback, and know that it can improve your confidence and enthusiasm for learning, as well as your assessment performance. But quality feedback can increase your motivation and aid your transition to uni, too. If this is your first year at uni, you may find that the feedback style differs to what you’re used to, which may come as a bit of a shock.

Feedback at university is an entirely different beast.

Universities aim to give their students feedback on the go, but many students say they often get feedback in one go. This is great if you want to know your overall mark for organic chem, but not ideal if you want to continuously hone your understanding of acid base reactions to achieve the best mark possible. One survey found that 91% of uni students expected to be given feedback in a regular and timely fashion, but only 49% agreed that this had been their experience by the end of their first year.

This is not really the best thing for your learning, though. Feedback shouldn’t be paid out in one lump sum. It should come in the middle, not the end, so you know where you are in your understanding, and where to go. This may not happen at university as often as you might like, but you don’t have to accept it. Sure you can’t control how often your lecturers and tutors give you feedback, but there is a way you can take matters into your own hands and ensure you stay on track.

Effective study techniques on the go.

More than 100 years of research has yielded hundreds of studies showing that practice testing enhances learning. These days it is considered to be one of the most effective study techniques there is.

Researchers believe that practice tests promote retention by triggering an elaborate retrieval process that activates related information in your long-term memory. Ultimately, this creates numerous pathways to the same information and makes it easier to access that information later on. Additionally, it is thought that practice tests help you mentally organise information, which also supports better retention and test performance. Practice tests combined with feedback have the added benefit of helping to prevent error repetition.

It is also important to step out of your comfort zone from time-to-time. Way back in 1908, in a now iconic experiment, it was shown that a state of comfort creates a steady level of performance. If you want to maximise performance or accomplish something new (like understand a new concept), you need to be in a state of relative anxiety. This space just outside our comfort zone is called ‘Optimal Anxiety’ and promotes cognitive performance.

Putting it into practice

While practice tests, and leaving your comfort zone are vital for learning, acting on the knowledge is nuanced and involves changing your habits. If you have a practice of highlighting passages in your textbook as preparation for an exam, you might feel daunted by adding practice tests. How would you even begin to do that?

Thankfully, it’s not a question of overhauling your study style, because transforming your learning approach is actually easier done than said (that’s not a typo).

If your lecturer has set Pearson Revel, MyLab, and Mastering, you will find digital tools that have been developed using the latest learning science. They will give you the ability to easily organise your study, identify and address your knowledge gaps, they will challenge you in all the right ways AND you will see how you’re tracking in real time.

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