Feedback on Academic Essay Writing through pre-Emptive Hints: Moving Towards "Advice for Action"

Whitelock, Denise; Twiner, Alison; Richardson, John T. E.; Field, Debra and Pulman, Stephen (2015). Feedback on Academic Essay Writing through pre-Emptive Hints: Moving Towards "Advice for Action". In: Best of EDEN RW8 (Special issue of the European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning) (Bernath, U. and Szücs, A. eds.), European Distance and E-Learning Network, Budapest pp. 1–15.



This paper adopts an “advice for action” approach to feedback in educational practice: addressing how provision of “hints” to participants before they write academic essays can support their understanding and performance in essay-writing tasks. We explored differences in performance by type of hint, and whether there was a transfer of better performance in subsequent essays. Fifty participants were recruited, consisting of eight men and 42 women aged 18-80. Participants were assigned in rotation to four groups, and asked to write two essays. Groups 1 and 3 received hints before Essay 1, whilst Groups 2 and 4 received hints before Essay 2. Groups 1 and 2 received essential hints; Groups 3 and 4 received helpful hints. Essays were marked against set criteria. The results showed that an “advice for action” approach to essay-writing, in the form of hints, can significantly improve writers’ marks. Specifically higher marks were gained for the introduction, conclusion and use of evidence: critical components of “good” academic essays. As the hints given were content-free, this approach has the potential to instantly benefit tutors and students across subject domains and institutions and is informing the development of a technical system that can offer formative feedback as students draft essays.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions