The Role of Assessment and Feedback Design in Enabling Student Uptake of Feedback
The present study examines the impact of assessment and feedback design on opportunities for feedback encounters, learners’ uptake of instructor feedback, and students’ perceptions of their learning experience in the online component of an undergraduate blended course in English for Academic Purposes. Evidence points towards innovative solutions in the field.
A growing body of literature investigates the importance of student feedback uptake for learning in Higher Education (HE) (Carless & Boud, 2018; Henderson et al., 2019; Nieman et al., 2021; Winstone & Carless, 2020). Research, however, reveals that promoting assessment and feedback design that will sustain productive feedback and affordances for agentic behavior on feedback remains a challenging task for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (Bearman et al., 2014; Carless, 2015; Hattie, 2015; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Henderson et al., 2019; Lashari et al., 2013; McConlogue, 2020; Nicol, 2010; Shute, 2008). The present study examined the impact of assessment and feedback design on opportunities for potential feedback encounters (Esterhazy, 2019), learner uptake of instructor feedback, and students’ perceptions of their overall learning experience in the online component of an undergraduate blended course in English for Academic Purposes. Student evaluations of the course and performance levels on the online component of the course also help explain the importance of reevaluating assessment and feedback design.
In the present study, data collection was based on: a) content analysis of learning content (instructions, prompts, scaffolds, rubrics) and instructor feedback commentaries to students' tasks in the online asynchronous component of the course on Blackboard Learning System, specifically 5 sections with 68 students and 5 instructors, b) learners’ (n=68) anonymous survey on perceived benefits and overall quality of instruction and feedback in the online asynchronous component of the course, c) institutional student course evaluations (anonymous), and d) course students’ grades from a random sample of students.
The researcher used Brooks’ et al. Matrix of Feedback for Learning with three feedback types (feedup, feedback and feedforward) and three feedback levels (task, process, and self-regulatory) to investigate and code the learning content and instructors' feedback commentaries. Content analysis revealed that the learning content, in the online asynchronous component of the course, created several opportunities for potential feedback encounters of feed up type at all levels. It also showed that instructors’ commentaries were frequently feedback type at task level, with some emphasis on feedforward type and process and self-regulatory feedback levels. Furthermore, a growing tendency for productive feedback and learner agentic behavior on feedback was reflected in the number of student resubmissions of tasks and uptake of instructor feedback. Last, the need for instructor diversified feedback types and levels to better sustain learner agency on feedback emerged.
Students’ responses on the anonymous survey, which was piloted, align with and complement the findings of content analysis, as they portray learners’ overall positive learning experiences in the asynchronous component of the blended course. More specifically, in discussing the quality of instruction, students underscored the importance of weekly overviews with the learning purposes of each week, model and examples to complete the writing activities, the suggested deadlines for completing submitting formative and summatice assignments, and instructions and scaffolds (questions and ideas) for the writing activities. Furthermore, students’ self-perceptions of the quality of instructor feedback in the online asynchronous components of the course highlight its efficacy. Students recognized instructor feedback as particularly helpful. In specific, students underlined the importance of instructor feedback to improve study skills and strategies, appreciated the opportunity to use instructor feedback comments to improve their writing, the possibility of resubmitting an improved version of their writing activities, and the opportunity to self-assess their own writing and activities before submission. The vast majority of students reported feeling satisfied with the online asynchronous component of the course.
Finally, the findings from the institutional student course evaluations as well as students’ final grades on the online asynchronous component of the blended course verify students’ positive learning experience and helped explain students’ ratings on perceived benefits.
Designing HE courses that support student uptake of feedback remains a challenge for educators and researchers. The present study underscores the contribution of assessment and feedback design to student uptake of feedback in a discipline specific blended course. The present findings constitute a systematic, scientific attempt to further research how assessment and feedback design, integral to course design, may enable and improve student feedback uptake. The results also greatly emphasize and support the need for a principled course design, specific to each setting and discipline (Esterhazy, 2019; Henderson et al., 2019; Winstone & Careless, 2020), where feedback design is not subordinated to assement design.