Ebay's tragic error teaches us about assessment

ebayEbay just announced that they are banning sellers from providing negative feedback on buyers. This solves the problem of ‘revenge feedback’, or the threat of it being used to bully buyers into accepting a bad deal. But it also breaks the symmetry of the system and denies essential protection to sellers. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I would have liked Ebay to introduce feedback escrow. Each party’s feedback is kept hidden until the other has provided theirs, then both are published at once. I suspect Ebay won’t do this because, freed to be honest, users on both sides would start reporting honestly and typical ratings would plummet from 99%+ where they are now, closer to 50%. But for users it would provide much, much better information about the people they are dealing with, thus building confidence in the system itself.

What is this to do with education? Ebay’s users are up in arms because of a change that makes their feedback process slightly less symmetrical. But what about ours? Teacher gives marks to the student… and that’s it. We are starting to introduce occasional student voice surveys, which is great, but it is a long, long, way from Ebay’s (almost) symmetrical feedback mechanism.

Let’s postulate Assessment for Teaching. It’s a mirror image of AfL. Teachers set targets for themselves for each lesson, and measures success against them (happens now, hopefully), but in addition, students provide both summative and formative feedback for every lesson.

Could it work? What would be the pros and cons?

One thought on “Ebay's tragic error teaches us about assessment

  1. How many people honestly set themselves public targets and how many then admit to failing them? So much rests on targets set for us by other people – i.e. the serious ones by which we are measured for promotion, educational opportunity, salary rises… How many targets are set which really encourage and develop as opposed to those which prompt ridicule or over-pressurise? How much feedback is given from a personal rather than altruistic agenda? Ultimately, the human race is egotistical and feedback will always be biased in favour of the giver.

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