What is it?
An interactive cover sheet (ICS), most associated with Bloxham and Campbell (2010), is similar to a submission cover sheet that students hand in alongside coursework, but where space is provided for students to comment on their own strengths and areas for development and to identify key areas where they would like feedback. It is suitable for most pieces of coursework where feedback is required. ICSs have also been used for exams.
Why would I use it?
- It fosters dialogue between teachers and students, even in large classes, seen by educational research to be key to feedback (Carless et al, 2011).
- It prevents feedback from being seen only as a product or event and fosters the notion of feedback as a process. This provides opportunities for students to comment on their own work rather than merely relying on teacher judgement. It therefore passes some of the control over assessment and feedback to the student (Baxter Magolda, 2004).
- Because the feedback is what the student has requested, the intention is that students will take more notice of the feedback. It also helps them to learn from it in terms of the goals and standards of their subject discipline (O Donovan et al, 2008).
- It can help ensure parity of feedback across a range of markers, as markers can be requested to only respond to the student, rather than giving what might be deemed too much or too little.
- It can be seen as a tick box exercise for students. The rationale should be made clear in order to encourage students to engage. Bloxham and Cambell recommend informing students explicitly that they will not receive feedback, or only minimal, if they do not complete the cover sheet.
- Some students might not be able to identify their own weaknesses. This can be mitigated by having a draft stage (see two-stage assignments) where comments are given (by a teacher or peers) where key areas are identified and the student has a focus.
- Students may comment on areas that you did not feel were problematic and omit areas which you felt were. This can also be communicated to the student. You can provide a pro forma rather than an open cover sheet to help give students guidance.
How has it been used?
There is little published research on the implementation of cover sheets and therefore the take-up of student feedback from using them. However, there is also little in the way of criticism either.
Here are two examples of ICS:
Carless (2018) suggests a modification to include a space on the ICS for students to say how they have used previous feedback in the coursework they are submitting. This helps students see connections between assignments and feedback events.
- Example from UCL (See Page 4 of this pdf),
- Example from KCL Psychology (IOPPN): Coversheet for BSc Psychology Submissions 2017-2018,
- Handout summarising this guidance on ICS from King’s Academy, including an annotated example.