Assessing with an attitude: tutor assessment feedback on business students’ academic writing

Shrestha, Prithvi (2018). Assessing with an attitude: tutor assessment feedback on business students’ academic writing. In: 28th European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference: Systemic Functional Linguistics on Language, Specialised Knowledge and Literacy, 5-7 Jul 2018, University of Pavia, Italy, European Systemic Functional Linguistics Association.



In higher education, it has widely been recognized that tutor feedback on assessment should be learning-oriented (e.g., Nicol, 2010; Shrestha & Coffin, 2012). However, there is a lack of research which examines tutor assessment feedback in disciplines such as business management through a linguistic lens contributing to this field of research. The use of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), especially APPRAISAL framework (Martin & White, 2005), to explore this aspect is limited in the assessment literature (e.g., see Hyland & Hyland, 2006; Starfield et al., 2015). Drawing on the APPRAISAL framework (Hood, 2010; Martin & White, 2005), this paper examines the evaluative language used in the formative feedback provided by tutors on eight undergraduate business students’ academic writing in two assignments. The data consisted of tutor feedback summaries by six tutors on 16 assignments and semi-structured interviews with eight students at The Open University, UK. The feedback summaries were examined through the system of ATTITUDE, ENGAGEMENT and GRADUATION as developed within the APPRAISAL framework to explore the nature of the tutor assessment feedback and the student interviews were thematically examined which provided insights into their perceptions of tutor feedback and assessment. The findings revealed that the tutor feedback varied significantly across the feedback summaries examined regarding not only the length and details but also the type of evaluative language used. The tutors tended to use the language of ATTITUDE, especially JUDGEMENT and APPRECIATION, and most tutors allowed limited feedback dialogue (ENGAGEMENT). These findings have implications for improving tutor formative feedback practices in disciplinary writing.

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