22 SES 11 D, University Teachers and Their Conceptions, Emotions and Understandings
Students' understanding of feedback is of great interest whenever good education is underway. Effective feedback presupposes that students understand the task on which feedback is given. If they do not understand the question it is, of course, difficult to understand the aspects that generated the wrong answers they gave to the question.
But what about the tutors formulating the task? Do they always understand it as intended and in the same way? Could it even be that a task is interpreted differently by the same tutor? And if so, feedback on what?
The purpose of this study is to examine how university tutors understand tasks issued to students. Does interpretation differ if the tutors themselves try to solve the task, discuss the solution and how it could be interpreted with other tutors, as well as trying to formulate better versions of the task?
Previous work has showed that tutors interpret tasks in a somewhat different manner and thereby give feedback on a somewhat different task, in spite of having the same text as point of departure (Crisp, 2007; Glover and Brown, 2006; Nicol, 2010). Handley and Williams (2011) discuss tacit knowledge regarding assessment criteria. It is therefore important that the tutors interpret the criteria in a consistent manner so students receive almost the same assessment of the quality of their work. However tutors are mostly unable to express these qualities and thereby only a sense of shared understanding is possible.
The meaning of words such as “analyse” and “discuss” are of special interest, as they signal key skills in higher education. Sadler (2010) argues that one precondition for students to convert feedback into actions of improvement is a working knowledge of higher cognitive skills involving such capacities as evaluation, critical thinking, creativity and analysis.
Lea and Street (1998) argue that when developing academic literacy, there must be an awareness that the meaning of the concept differs between institutions, staff and students. Tutors thus differ in what constitutes valid knowledge depending on context. Ivanič et al (2000) found that tutors' responses included micro-messages which are discipline-specific, for example as to what may be considered a sufficient justification or an acceptable explanation.Chanock (2000) states that disparity in the interpretation of key concepts has its roots in different traditions across disciplines
In recent research, the power of dialogue is often in focus. The problem of misunderstanding of feedback could thus be solved by tutors and students engaging in dialogue. Higgins, Hartley and Skelton (2002) recommend, when commenting on how to prevent conflicting advice based on different meanings across disciplines, more discussion between tutors and students regarding tutors' expectations. Handley and Williams (2011) argue that tutors, representing different disciplines, by discussing examples, will realise that they hold contrasting, multiple interpretations of the meaning of “quality”.
In this study, focus is on how tutors themselves interpret a task over a span of time. More specifically, does interpretation differ if the tutors try to solve the task, discuss the solution and how it could be interpreted with other tutors, as well as trying to formulate better versions of the task?
Carless, David (2006). Differing perceptions in the feedback process. Studies in Higher Education. 31 (2) 219-233. Chanock, K. (2000). Comments on essays: do students understand what tutors write? Teaching in Higher Education, 5(1), 95-105. Crisp, Beth (2007). Is I worth the effort? How feedback influences students´ subsequent submission of assessable work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(5) 571-581. Glover, Chris & Brown, Evelyn (2006). Written feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective? Bioscience Education, 7, 1 http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol7/beej-7-3.pdf Handley, Karen & Williams, Lindsay (2011). From copying to learning: using exemplars to engage students with assessment criteria and feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(1) 95-108. Higgins, Richard, Hartley, Peter and Skelton, Alan (2002). The Conscientious Consumer: reconsidering the role of assessment feedback in student learning. Studies in Higher Education. 27(1) 53-64. Ivanič, Roz, Romy, Clark & Rimmeshaw, Rachel (2000). What Am I supposed to Make of This? The Messages Conveyed to Students by Tutors’ Written Comments. In Lea, Mary & Stierer, Barry (Ed.) Student writing in Higher Education. Suffolk: Open University Press. University of Chicago Press. Lea, Mary & Street, Brian (1998). Student Writing in Higher Education: an academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education. 23 (2) 157-172. Nicol, David (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. In Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5) 501-517. Price, Margaret, Handley, Karen, Millar, Jill & O´Donovan, Berry (2010). Feedback: all effort, but what is the effect?. In Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3) 277-289. Sadler, Royce (2010). Beyond feedback: developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5) 535-550.
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