Developing assessment feedback literacy: The role of reciprocal relationships and dialogic interactions

This research is situated within the notion of ‘feedback literacy’ (Carless, 2016) and academic buoyancy (Martin and Marsh, 2009).  It examines ways in which students respond to and use feedback in order to ascertain the potential for tutors to maximise its effectiveness.  It builds on the first phase of this research which was designed to improve assessment feedback (Ahmed Shafi et al., 2017).   Findings demonstrated that, alongside changes in practice derived from the first phase, the dynamic interaction of the social and personal contexts were key factors in feedback processes and academic buoyancy.  Phase 1 highlighted the impact feedback has on students’ emotional state and identified five indicators of academic buoyancy (the Big 5). The findings showed that assessment feedback can support the development of these indicators and thus develop academic buoyancy. Based on these findings, changes to practice were implemented.

This current paper explores the impact of these changes, which included: focused tutor input on the 5 indicators, revising the assessment feedback format and student devised action points for discussion within personal tutor meetings. To understand the impact of these changes with regards to feedback literacy, qualitative data were collected from 4 focus groups each comprising between 4-6 students and 8 individual student interviews across Levels 4, 5 and 6 of a UK undergraduate BA Education degree course.  Findings indicated that changes to practice supported academic buoyancy and that additional input to develop the indicators would be beneficial. Additional emergent themes included the importance of contextualised dialogue (Ajjawi & Boud, 2017) and the significance of relationships with tutors in facilitating a more buoyant response to feedback.

The research has led to a proposed model that conceptualises feedback practice and bases it on a revised set of Big 5 indicators of academic buoyancy and embeds it in a course ethos that recognises the importance of relationships between tutors and students and acknowledges the role of dialogue in providing both emotional and academic support. The model takes account of the individual attributes of students stressing the formative, personal and development potential of feedback and with a systems perspective.  The relevance of these findings link closely to the idea of ‘value for money’ in Higher Education but importantly to how tutors can support students in their academic journey.