Feedback and the Ryanair effect

What has Ryanair got to do with feedback in education? If you have ever had the pleasure to fly with Ryanair then you will have met the Ryanair effect! Knock airport in the west of Ireland is my destination frequently,  only 1 hour 10 mins from Luton. When the plane touches down on the runaway which was built over boggy terrain,  a familiar sound rings out – the Ryanair trumpet fanfair! The recording begins and a voice sounds

“Thank you for flying with Ryanair” followed by

“Last year, over 90 per cent of our flights arrived on time. We hope you enjoyed yours and we look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.”

Yet another on time flight! I have heard that jingle so many times, I think the association has become hard-wired into my brain! Now if Ryanair asked me in a survey,  “do our flights arrive on time?” I would find it difficult not to agree and answer positively, why? because they have reminded me so many times that their flights arrive on time.

So let’s transfer to feedback. Colleagues from my Department were feeling exasperated with student dissatisfaction on feedback in the post module questionnaire. The teaching team were giving so much quality feedback, feedback prior to activities, feedback immediately after tasks, feedback 1 week after some assessments but always delivering feedback in a timely manner according to the university regulations. There was no way to increase the feedback even if they tried!

And so they decided to have some fun with a serious intent as I like to frame it. They ordered bright pink caps with the word FEEDBACK clearly visible in white to use the following academic year. feedback-caps-2

The pink caps were worn anytime feedback was provided to the students. The students found it amusing, the staff had a giggle too, well you really couldn’t get overly serious wearing a bright pink cap! But the serious intent came to light in the student ratings at the end of the module. There was a 36% increase in the rating on feedback being timely and 26% increase in the rating on feedback being helpful.

Remember nothing changed from the previous year in relation to feedback other than highlighting when it was happening by wearing the bright pink cap. A very happy teaching team feeling justly recognised for their efforts. For me this is exactly like the Ryanair effect with their annoying yet memorable jingle.

So when it comes to feedback, do our students actually recognise feedback? Probably not unless we help them to identify it. Most students would say feedback is the comments they receive on their work. But feedback is more than that.  How can we help students to identify feedback? Small quick wins, this is definitely one of those.