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 Award||Dec 2017|