Feedback? No, just give us the answers

September 25, 1998

Student cynicism can undermine attempts by academics to give better feedback, Sunderland University researchers have found.

Joanna Swann and Kathryn Ecclestone, senior lecturers in Sunderland's school of education, this week told the annual conference of the Scottish Education Research Association that staff are under increasing pressure to improve assessment methods.

But research at Sunderland has revealed that this is not straightforward. While many students improve their work when they understand the purpose of feedback and know more about assessment criteria, other still see it as an unhelpful burden.

"Lecturers found that when they tried to improve the quality and timing of their feedback to students, requests for guidance and even more detailed feedback increased," said Ms Ecclestone.

"It was apparent that what students wanted was to be coached for the test. Students are clearly becoming more cynical about 'getting through' with a minimum of effort, rather than aiming to become critically informed, independent learners."

Some students threw away the feedback if they disliked the grade, while others seemed concerned only with the final result and did not collect their marked work.

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