What's wrong with feedback?

William Ashraf, Sabina Hussain, Sun A. Kyun

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The higher education sector, both nationally and internationally, has undergone a massive transformation over a few short years with the move from an elite to a universal education model. Today’s students are a heterogeneous group with varied abilities, aspirations and with many external pressures and commitments for their time. It could be argued that today’s Generation Y students require even more support and guidance when compared to previous generations. They also need to keep pace with rapid change, particularly for technically based degree programmes, as well as having compete in an increasingly aggressive job market. Traditionally, feedback to students on their assessment tasks has been viewed as the vehicle to help students navigate through the complex learning pathway and to help them improve their performance.

Therefore, it perhaps surprising that the university sector scores relatively poorly in this core activity of helping and working students to improve and accelerate their learning. Student dissatisfaction with feedback is borne out from the results obtained from a range the range of student feedback instruments deployed by those same institutions. Indeed our students have consistently supplied “us” with feedback in this regard and yet we seem reluctant to address, at least at an institutional level, or take the necessary effective strategic and operational steps to improve the situation.
We all need feedback in our daily and professional lives in order for us to improve our performance and excel. But what exactly is feedback? As educators, we (and the organisations we work in) seem devote an enormous amount of time and resource into providing comment, advice, collection and distribution of written work for marking/grading. However, results from questionnaires aimed at capturing student voice indicate that this is the least appreciated aspect of our university system.

This paper aims to summarise and evaluate the current national and international data on perceptions of the helpfulness of student feedback in the higher education sector, suggest innovative strategies for change and where technology can be harnessed to promote good practice within a learning organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMarking time
Subtitle of host publicationleading and managing the development of assessment in higher education
EditorsKathryn Coleman, Adele Flood
PublisherCommon Ground Publishing
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)1612291228, 9781612291222
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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