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Project Background and Reports

 Project Bid Details

Pilot study findings


 Project Progress Report: July 2011

Research bibliography

Background to the Project

Improving feedback to students is a pressing and topical concern. A recent article in the Times Higher Education (THE) stated that “Nearly a third of students think that the feedback they get from their lecturers does not tell them how to improve their work” (THE Sept 18/9/08–24/9/08, p.11). The perceived student experience of assessment and feedback in the NSS is one of relative dissatisfaction, and the scores in NSS 2008 suggest that little progress has been made. This has recently been reinforced by the NUS publishing its 10 principles of effective assessment (THE 29/1/09–4/2/09, p.34). Amongst the points highlighted were that assessment “should consist of effective and constructive feedback” “and “should encourage dialogue between students and their tutors, and between students and their peers”.

The literature has remarked that “feedback has been underconceptualised, which has made it difficult to design effective feedback practices” (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2004, p.1). Scholarly work highlights the need for work in this area (Duncan, 2007; Weaver, 2006), and underlines a dissatisfaction with current practices (Price, 2002). Yet feedback is widely perceived to be of enormous intrinsic value, impacting upon student learning, motivation, self-esteem, and performance improvement.

There is a gap between what students and tutors desire, and their everyday experiences. The shortcomings appear to lie in the area of communication – mainly written, but sometimes spoken. Many studies (e.g. Higgins 2001) highlight that students find feedback difficult to understand, and that staff often find it difficult to explain what they mean. Other research supports the view that students value sessions which create opportunities for dialogue with tutors (Parmar and Trotter, 2004). This point was reinforced in the THE article which outlined that “students commented that they needed a good relationship with their tutor to get verbal help, but such relationships were rare” (THE Sept 18/9/08–24/9/08, p.11).

Purpose of the project

This project will explore how tutors and students can develop new ways of giving and using feedback. The fulcrum for this approach will revolve around the second SENLEF principle of encouraging teacher and peer dialogue around learning.

Project aims:

  • To identify ways of developing practices in feedback to students at a subject level which build upon the work in the SENLEF project, ASKe, the NUS and elsewhere.
  • To develop models of feedback that enhance student learning and to demonstrate how they can be embedded in the student learning experience and transferred to cognate disciplines.

Problems being addressed:

  • One, how to replace the simple “transmission“ model of feedback, which is linked very closely to student grading, with a model of feedback linked directly to learning and reflection;
  • Two, how to implement more dynamic approaches to feedback, by developing practical strategies for encouraging dialogue between staff and students which enables discussion, reflection, internalisation and action, and which acts as a lever to promote student learning and to enhance student motivations to learn.