The Role of Assessment Feedback in Developing Student’s Academic Buoyancy

Research reveals strong evidence connecting educational resilience (Wang 1994, 1997) and educational buoyancy (Martin et al. 2010) with academic success (De Baca 2010, Martin & Marsh 2008). The predominantly convergent nature (Delandshire 2001) of summative assessment is largely based on a deficit model where judgments of success are made by a perceived expert. This results in challenges and setbacks in academic achievement that can be seen as unexceptional aspects of the learning journey from the perspective of some undergraduate students (Putwain et al. 2007) but for others can be potentially damaging. This research focuses on these typical challenges rather than more exceptional chronic issues which impact on academic learning and argues that academic buoyancy (Martin & Marsh 2009) is a key factor in academic success as it helps students cope with such setbacks.

This research stems from an interest in the relationship between assessment feedback and academic buoyancy and a belief that in order to scaffold student’s learning (Vygotsky 1978) and effectively support the development of their academic buoyancy, there is a need for a better understanding of i) the choices made by students following assessment feedback given by the lecturer, ii) what students are looking for in feedback and iii) the impact on students of assessment feedback as a result of different formats in which feedback is provided. The assessment feedback given by academic staff may focus on the mechanics of a task, but potentially miss an opportunity to develop the buoyancy of students.

This research project aims to explore how undergraduate students view the usefulness of feedback, how they understand their strengths and difficulties as a result of feedback and their understanding of the feed-forward potential for their future academic work. After an initial pilot with a sample of 19 students emergent themes were identified which are now being explored further with 100 undergraduate students studying BA Education Studies. They are being consulted through the use of a semi-structured questionnaire with follow up focus group interviews. This student centred project aims to inform the professional learning of teaching staff in effective ways to offer feedback such that this repeated interaction between staff and students through the year is favourable and develops student buoyancy, thus facilitating assessment for resilience.