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How to use your Tutor Reports

Textiles Tutor Report
This blog post has come about through conversations textile assessors had during the last assessment event. It was noted that frequently students did not use the advice given by their tutor in the feedback documentation. We saw instances of where if students had amended their work in line with the tutor feedback they could have achieved a higher mark at assessment. OCA students are in a unique position in that they regularly receive extensive written feedback during each unit (course) studied. The Tutor Report explains to the student where they are doing well and the places where improvements could be made. Often included are suggestions and pointers in how to develop both strengths and weaker areas. Giving the student the opportunity to make improvements to the assignment they have just completed.
I have put together a list of suggested ways OCA students can explore and pull apart their feedback forms to extract the information.

  • Firstly print out the Tutor Report document or enable the document to be annotated on your PC.
  • Read it carefully.
  • Read it again this time highlighting areas of importance. For example strengths, weaknesses and suggested changes.
  • Read it again this time alongside the assessment criteria noting down any language that suggests you are at a particular level. (Tutors use the assessment criteria to judge the kind of feedback you require)
  • Look at the Tutor Report with your notes along side the assignment it refers to.
  • Lay out your work looking for the places your tutor has indicated for change.
  • Make notes on what you see. Can you see what your tutor sees?
  • Make further notes on how you could go about meeting the suggestions made or making improvements to the assignment.
  • Talk the assignment and feedback over with another student (via Facebook or a student forum) or a friend/member of your family.
  • Make your changes to the assignment.
  • Reflect on how this process has helped you improve your assignment.
  • Place both the Tutor Report and your notes in your learning log.
  • Write up the changes you have made to the work and reflect upon the outcomes.

These are not hard and fast rules. My hope is that this list will offer guidance and a framework for you to effectively use your Tutor Reports.
If when you have gone through this process or something similar and you find there is something that still remains a mystery to you contact your tutor for clarification.
For further information on how to improve your work look out for OCA blog posts where tutors discuss specific students work. For example the audio piece with images about the work of Ruth Goury on the 13th July 2015. Here I discuss how Ruth has used the design process to achieve some exciting outcomes. While watching the item make notes that you can add to your learning log and use to improve or develop your own work.
Please add comments to this post on how you effectively use your Tutor Reports that you think other students may find helpful. If you are a tutor it would be great to have your voice in this conversation too : )
Rebecca Fairley. OCA Textile Course Leader, Tutor and Assessor

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Posted by author: Rebecca Fairley
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36 thoughts on “How to use your Tutor Reports

  • This is great advice for any student.
    At times I’ve had students that make no reference to the report (even a brief ‘thanks’ to acknowledge receiving it) when the next set of work arrives. The successful students generally engage with the reports.
    It is after all where the bespoke part of the student experience is. The course documents are inevitably generalist in nature, whereas the reports are particular to the student.

  • You give lots of suggestions for absorbing the content of the reports. It is important for students not to have a knee- jerk reaction to a report that contains what might be seen as negative comments. It is equally important not to be too complacent if the general tone is positive. Reading, re-reading, highlighting and taking notes are all good ways of examining the content. i think it is vital to have your work laid out as you do so.
    You are right to suggest that students only get in touch with their tutor once they have done this if there are still areas to be clarified. Any comments on the report should be put in your blog and sent with the next assignment.

  • Chtistine
    It is important not to take the feedback report personally. Whether feedback is positive or negative the tutor knows what you need to do to get you through the assessment process and all comments are based around that. Use the telephone to make tutor contact. Without such a relationship students would be distance learning in the wildnerness.

    • Thank you for your comment Christine. You are right to say that it is important not to take feedback personally. Though I understand this can be hard at times. Your tutor wants you to do well so digest the information carefully.

  • I have found that I have to read and re-read assignment feedback. Initially, it is easy to only see the negative and not pick up on the constructive content. To avoid the knee-jerk, I put it aside for a week and come back to it later, and repeatedly, so as to become more objective and less emotional. I do highlight it and make notes, but I do generally take these forward to the next assignment which I will have already been working on. I do find it hard to go back and rework a project as I have already moved on mentally, but I have done it. I find it very difficult when my mind is no longer in that zone.
    This article is so helpful that I think it should be available to students under ‘Resources’ as it will gradually disappear in the blog.

    • Hi Steve,
      I am hoping to link students to this blog post, along with many other previous helpful posts, in the resources section on the OCA student site somehow as I have wondered myself if many of the useful information here gets lost in the depths of the WeAreOCA archive.
      I think making links available to previous blog posts rather than transposing the blog content into documents would be best as we all continue to comment and share on the posts as time goes on with further helpful advise.

    • Thank you starry bird for your comments. It is a pleasure to make a difference to students. I have taken on board you point about having this information accessible to students at all times.

    • Not sure what happened, but I was going to say that I would wonder about talking the work over with family and friends, maybe other students or a practicing artist? The remark about student experience was ‘tongue in cheek btw’

      • Thanks for your comments jsumb. Talking things over with anyone who will listen is always valuable. I don’t think the other person necessarily has to have a clue what you are talking about. But in verbalising thoughts and feelings things can fit into place that would have otherwise gone round and round in your head.

  • Often we are aware of our own weaknesses and yet are reluctant to recognise them. When a tutor points out something we know to be true (but perhaps we’ve tried to mask it or find ways to workaround or avid the issue) it can be doubly frustrating. Our strategy has failed and we’ve been rumbled. (I’m trying to write a PhD and my supervisors always seem to ask exactly the right questions, so I know how it feels)
    When reading reports it’s likely that the tutor will be pointing out things you know. A degree of humility is important. It’s hard to write reports when students make claims about the quality of their work (or worse, write that other people think they’re great). Talking over a report with friends can help though. Get them to point out only the positives while you look at the work. Talk about what the tutor writes. Only then shold you do the negatives. Often a negative hits home much harder than a positive, but make sure you are being sensible when reading the report. There might only be one negative and lots of positives. That negative, perhaps hard to acknowledge, gives you something to work with. A report that was entirely positive is the equivalent of ‘carry on’. Not much teaching / learning going on there.
    My point is that acheivable difficulty is useful. It’s how we learn and what makes accomplishment so rewarding. Keep a clear head when reading reports, and always refer them to the work and respond to them in the Learning Log.

  • Another excellent blog from Rebecca – thank you
    I know many students struggle to assess their own assignments against the assessment criteria, which is suggested in the newer courses. I would like to see some more guidance on how to do this with some exemplar at different grades & levels.
    I would value being able to talk about the assignment and feedback over with another student, or even before the work is submitted. I continue to be disappointed when I have asked other students via Facebook to look at my work via the blog for feedback. Students seems very happy to look at your work – in one case I had 64 views of an assignment and no one left a comment. Perhaps students don’t have the skills to evaluate others work and don’t want to offend? I have a few fellow students who I can rely on for support but it takes time and effort to develop these relationships.
    My view is that if you read a blog post especially for assignment work then you should always leave a comment.

    • I’ve taught in a ‘bricks and mortar’ art school and the group crit can be a brutal process. It can be hard to told that your work isn’t working, but often that’s the best comment you can get. Open access courses are different and people often need encouragement rather than challenging, but there’s still a place for honest and useful criticism. It’s frustrating to see comments on blogs (including this one) that just say things like ‘that’s great’. It’s nice to hea, but not very useful. Asking probing questions like ‘I like this, but can you tell why you used that media?’, or ‘have you thought about scaling that up, it would look great as a mural?’. Positive but probing.

    • Thanks for being part of this conversation Karen. I have taken your point on board about getting something in the student guide. Your comment about making meaningful relationships with other students is interesting. Its something we are always taking about at the oca. We want students to be in touch with each other because it seriously makes a difference to your studies. Perhaps you would like to write your own blog post about it and see where the conversation take us : )

  • It is good to have this advice in black and white. It is roughly what I have always done, and i keep the report by me as I work, with the notes I have made, highlights , the lot. usually find something I do n ot understand and get clarification from my tutor. Interesting references to follow up and reading matter, has introduced me to new artists and ways of working. At present preparing for assessment while awaiting final report, and reworking things and reviewing presentation which has developed through the course, with advice from repotts. I find them invaluable, and this list will be a useful reminder.Thank You.

  • Thanks Rebecca this is a helpful post. I have found my tutor feedback to be immensely helpful. In my most recent submission to my tutor I knew that something was not quite connecting ( research for Textiles 1 Exploring Ideas). I thought I had done everything outlined in the unit but when I reviewed it at the end using the grade related criteria I couldn’t really gauge whether I had done enough or what was missing. My tutor feedback however was spot on and articulated my own gut feeling that I hadn’t quite got to the standard I would have wanted. What she pointed out was a need for more connection between the research and my personal response and of course the flow through to my own work. My tutor helpfully pointed out that I do this pretty well in my learning blog but not in my research assignments. I have seen other students comment on this particular aspect of the course and even feeling a bit aggrieved at their final marks when this element was poorly graded. I saw right away from my tutor feedback what I needed to do to improve on this element of my work and whilst it may feel painful to revisit what we thought we had finished with its a really essential part of learning. I have to say that the report was generally pretty positive and highly supported but we do tend to focus on the negative – its a human response. That’s the bit that help though because learning is a messy business – and so it should be – so I for one really appreciate the challenge as well as the support from my tutor.
    The point made here about group crit or the lack of it, and being open to comments from others is a tricky aspect of open learning. I am a regular visitor to the forums and the facebook page but often people are too busy to engage in debate of any depth. If there was an easy answer to this I am certain the OCA would have thought of it already. Not all student put there work on their online log and of course that is their choice. However that’s a good way of seeing the standard that others are working to and I welcome the focus on student work on We Are OCA blog.

  • As a Creative Writing tutor (and not only for the OCA) I have always told students that they must take on board the tutor’s advice as far as considering redrafting in the light of that advice. If they feel that they absolutely must reject the tutor’s advice, then their commentary (or blog) must justify that rejection. That way at least the tutor and assessor has some handle on why their work looks the way it does.

  • I was told off by my photograph tutor, for putting his comments on my blog. He was so unhelpful, I have given up photography.
    This is very helpful and I agree with Karen it would good to include this in a student guide

    • I am sorry to hear this Claire. Personally I am more than happy for my students to share their tutor report with whoever they wish. It is after all their document. Thanks for commenting.

  • Thank you to everyone who has read, shared and contributed to this discussion about how to approach feedback from your tutor. There are a couple of things I would like to pick up on. Firstly this isn’t a definitive guide. I think that those of you who have suggested that this information should be in the student guides are right but I do feel that this should be discussed and put in place with the views of other Course (soon to be Programme) Leaders. It is therefore something I will bring to our next meeting. I think there will be other approaches I haven’t thought of which is why it has been good to hear the views of both tutors and students.
    As degree level students you have the opportunity and should be encouraged to find your own and fresh ways of approaching your studies. The educator/learner relationship is more fluid and flexible than in other styles of education, so please keep adding to this discussion by talking to other students and your tutors, then feeding what you learn into your work.
    The other thing I wanted to come back to was something Brian added in his comment about his experiences with his PhD supervisors. How it is the criticisms from a tutor or a member of your peer group that pushes you to develop and we understand how this feels. During my Masters degree my supervisors often cut me to the core leaving me emotionally drained but what they said was important in guiding me to a better result.
    Those not lucky enough to study towards a creative degree can’t understand how because you invest so much of yourself in the work criticism can be very painful. But please remember your tutor is on your side and whats you to do well.

  • I’ve just lifted this from the oca Student Handbook that is available on the oca student website. Does there need to be more information of the kind I included in this blog post? I would like your thoughts. Thanks.
    “Tutor feedback
    OCA has an excellent system of open learning feedback. You will receive positive, constructive comments from your individual tutor that support your learning and progress on the course. You can ensure that your tutor is able to devote the maximum time to generate feedback if your work is packaged and presented well, in a clear, clean, and well structured manner. (For example, please amke sure your work does not smell of cigarette smoke when sending it).
    The tutor’s task is to challenge as well as encourage you, so please don’t be defensive about receiving constructive criticism. Taking on board sound advice from experienced practitioners and educators is the best way to make progress.
    Do note that you are encouraged to reflect carefully on tutor feedback, and, if appropriate, go back to the assignment you submitted and make adjustments to it based on the feedback you have had from your tutor.
    If you submit for assessment making such adjustments shows responsiveness and learning and will help improve your mark.”

    • I think most of the study guides are really poor and out of date compared to the academic standards now expected or reflect students working at different levels. I think think the study guides need to be interactive and use videos with accompanying transcript, asking questions, leaving space for students to add their thoughts and list their actions or next steps.
      I think the oca handbook statement seems very simplistic and lacks explanation. For example “you are encouraged to reflect” I think its an understatement. Its suggests responding to reports is an optional extra activity rather than a core part of the learning cycle.
      Why does “Taking on board sound advice from experienced practitioners” led to progress ?
      If a student feels defensive about criticism how could a student approach reworking?
      I would love to see examples in the student handbook or study guides, comments from tutors and students. What about using examples of students assessing themselves against the assessment criteria and a tutors comments on how it could be improved.
      I think there is so much more the oca needs to offer to bring their students up to speed with their study skills.

  • As the people suggest that not to take the tutor report personally but at least think about it once and take it positively, if the report is negative then try to avoid the errors by working hard and those errors cannot take your positivity away from you. So you will still keep your good qualities.

  • This is a really useful post.
    I read an interesting article online which discuss ‘intellectual humility’ the following quote from Jacob Burak was great:
    ” Intellectual humility relies on the ability to prefer truth over social status” Jacob Burak
    I can relate this to studying/learning and tutor feedback.

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