Undergraduate students’ experiences and perceptions of dialogic feedback within assessment feedback tutorials

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    High quality assessment feedback is crucial to effective student learning, motivation and academic progress. It is one of the most important aspects of an undergraduate student’s study experience and acts as a critical factor in the way students perceive both their learning and learner identity. However, annual National Student Survey (NSS) results continue to reveal that undergraduate students are least satisfied with their experiences of assessment and feedback when compared to other areas on which the NSS focuses. These results have raised important questions within the higher education (HE) profession about the fitness for purpose of current forms of assessment feedback. As such, a reappraisal of assessment feedback policies and practices sits high within the sector’s improvement agenda. In response to these concerns, there is a small but growing field of research that promotes dialogic feedback and the inclusion of opportunities for assessment feedback discussions between tutors and undergraduate students. Framed by socio-constructivist theorisations of learning, proponents claim that such assessment feedback discussions benefit students through developing their personal confidence and capacity to self-direct learning. Paradoxically, however, in spite of research evidence showing that students support the inclusion of these tutorial meetings, personal experience reveals a reluctance by some students to engage in discussion about their assessment performance. Through a phenomenological research design, the thesis aimed to gain a deeper understanding of students’ experiences and perceptions of discussing their performance with their marking tutor. Research participants included eight second-year, full-time undergraduate social science students. Each student participated in semi-structured interviews exploring their experiences of assessment feedback tutorials (AFT). The transcribed data was analysed using a six-stage Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) model. The research makes an original contribution to knowledge relating to both the practice and theory of dialogic feedback in undergraduate study. Specifically, the findings posit that some students face a significant predicament when discussing weak and/or failed assignments. Their desire to self-promote and/or self-protect a confident and capable learner identity, not only conflicts with their own self-awareness of their poor academic performance, but also with the tutor's expectations that students need to undertake greater responsibility for their own learning and academic performance. As a means of managing this tension, and the emotional pressures that an AFT creates, students draw upon a range of self-presentational behaviours to manage how they project themselves to their tutor. The thesis concludes that such strategic management of their self-presentation restricts opportunities for the critical dialogic exchanges needed to create co-constructive student/tutor relationships and deep learning. As such, it is recommended that, within undergraduate study, there is increased focus on supporting students to understand the role that dialogue plays in engaging with feedback and the personal learning opportunities it affords.
    Date of AwardDec 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton

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