Evan’s (2013) systematic review of the literature on assessment feedback in Higher Education identifies four gaps in the field that are significant and relevant to our research:
The paucity of research in the postgraduate sector (Evans 2013: 76);
The lack of focus on how individuals make sense of and use feedback (Evans 2013: 78);
The lack of work on the lecturer perspective on feedback (Evans 2013: 76)
The lack of the affective domain (Evans 2013: 76)
Our objectives for the research were to:
Contribute to a development of knowledge by exploring assessment feedback in the postgraduate sector with a particular focus on the ways in which students make sense of and use feedback;
Seek the student perspective on the kinds of feedback that they find effective;
Explore if and how tutor feedback supports professional and academic learning;
Contribute to wider transnational debates about effective feedback and its contribution to teaching and learning and to the role of practitioner research as a counter-hegemonic strategy;
We are tutors and course leaders for a professional, practice-based, mixed mode Master of Teaching programme at University College London: Institute of Education. In our professional role there is an increasing concern from tutors to know about the ways in which students understand and act on the feedback they receive and what they feel about this feedback in order to support student learning through feedback (Walters and Turner, forthcoming). Alongside this, within our institution there has been a decrease in turn-around time formarkingand there are institutional suggestions that we move towards providing feedback in the form of tutor selected rubrics in order to provide feedback more promptly. These moves arise out of institutional desires to respond to student satisfaction surveys and are pressures faced by many tutors and academics internationally, as well as locally, as the increasing emphasis on market forces, competition, costs and accountability become central drivers of policy, practice and transnational reform(Tremblay et al. 2012; QAA, 2015). Our intentions were also to create a space for ourselves within the practice – policytension by making use of practitioner research as a methodology, as a politicised act, in order to speak back to power (Craig and Porter, 2014; Hannay, 2011). Our paper becomes not simply a presentation of our findings regarding feedback but an analysis of practitioner research as empowerment: as an opportunity to create a powerful space or voice within the institution (Kim, 2011; Anderson, 2002).
Our research sought answers to the following questions:
- How do postgraduate students make sense of and use feedback?
- What do Masters students want from feedback?
- What is effective feedback and what can its contribution be to teaching and learning?
The dialogic principles of socio-constructivist theories of learning underpin our programme and our research. Our focus was on the experiences, perceptions and insights of our students. This required an exploratory approach and an interpretivist analysis of qualitative data. We have investigated our own practice to better understand student learning and in order to create a space for ourselves within the tension that exists between our pedagogic principles and practices and the transnational reforms noted above. We explore the use of practitioner research to create local ‘insider’ knowledge as counter-hegemonic knowledge (Anderson, 2002; Kim, 2011) and as a way of speaking back to strong local, national and transnational knowledges, pressures and reforms (Pennycook, 2010).
Adcroft, A. (2011). "The Mythology of Feedback." Higher Education Research and Development 30(4): 405-419 Anderson, G. (2002). "Reflecting on Research for Doctoral Students in Education." Educational Researcher 31(7): 22-25 Bailey, R. and M. Garner (2010). "Is the Feedback in Higher Education Assessment Worth the Paper it is Written On? Teachers' Reflections on their Practices." Teaching in Higher Education 15(2): 187-198 Bayerlein, L. (2014). "Students' Feedback Preferences: How do Students React to Timely and Automatically Generated Assessment Feedback?" Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 39(8) Craig, M. and C. Porter (2014). "'Speaking Back' From the English Periphery: Art-Work in a South Korean High School English Classroom." English Teachng: Practice and Critique 13(2): 35-54 Elliott, J., Ed. (1993). Reconstructing Teacher Education. London, Falmer Evans, C. (2013). "Making Sense of Assessment Feedback in Higher Education." Review of Educational Research 1(83): 70-120 Ferguson, P. (2011). "Student Perceptions of Quality Feedback in Teacher Education." Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 31(1): 51-62 Ginsburg, M. and J. Gorostiaga (2001). "Relationships Between Theorists/Researchers and Policy Makers/Practitioners: Rethinking the Two-Cultures Thesis and the Possibility of Dialogue." Comparative Education Review 45(2): 173-196 Hannay, L. (2011). Reconstructing Professional Knowledge Through Collaborative Participatory Research. Practitioner Research in Teacher Education: Theory and Best Practices. I. Saleh and M. Khine. Frankfurt, Peter Lang Kim, J.-H. (2011). Teacher Inquiry as Phenomenological Bildungsroman. Practitioner Research in Teacher Education: Theory and Best Practices I. Saleh and M. Khine. Frankfurt, Peter Lang Kemmis, S. and T. Smith (2008). Praxis and Praxis Development. Enabling Praxis: Challenges for Education. S. Kemmis and T. Smith. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers Pennycook, A. (2010). Language as a Local Practice. New York, Routledge Quezada, R., H. Lattimer, Spencer, J. (2011). A 'Framework of Opportunity' for Practitioner Research. Practitioner Research in Teacher Education: Theory and Best Practices. I. Saleh and M. Khine. Frankfurt, Peter Lang Shaw, I. (2005). "Practitioner Research: Evidence or Critique?" British Journal of Social Work 35(8): 1231-48 Stenhouse, L. (1975). An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London, Heinnemann Strauss, P. (1995). "No Easy Answers: The Dilemnas and Challenges of Teacher Research." Educational Action Research 3(1): 29-40 Tremblay, K., D. Lalancette, Roseveare, D. (2012). Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes Feasibility Study Report Volume One: Design and Implementation, OECD Williams, J. (2015). The Role of Student Satisfaction Data in Quality Assurance and Enhancement: How Providers Use Data to Improve the Student Experience. Gloucester, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
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