An Exploration of Multiple Perspectives Around Feedback Practices on Assessed Writing in Higher Education

Cobb, Rachel Jane (2021). An Exploration of Multiple Perspectives Around Feedback Practices on Assessed Writing in Higher Education. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores feedback practices around assessed writing in Higher Education from three perspectives: students, tutors and the institution. The study is motivated by my belief as an experienced tutor practitioner that recognition of these three key perspectives in the feedback process is of pedagogical importance.

Feedback on assessed writing emerges as a concern throughout the literature and amongst colleagues. Empirical studies and pedagogical discussions around feedback practices tend to focus on one perspective, usually students’, sometimes tutors’, with both framed implicitly within institutional interests. Moreover, much research appears to present issues around feedback as a ‘problem’ that needs resolving. This thesis seeks to offer an exploration of the perspectives of key participants around feedback practices informed by work in Academic Literacies (Lillis and Scott, 2007), through research drawing on ethnographic principles.

The thesis is based on one cohort of a second-year undergraduate linguistics module within The Open University (OU), a large UK distance learning institution. It uses data generated from questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and official documentation.

I explore the data using a heuristic of Bakhtin’s dialogic approach to language and communication (see Bakhtin, [1934/35],1981:272; 278-80). I relate Bakhtinian notions to the potentiality of dialogic student-tutor feedback practices, the perception of authoritative voices and the potential for agency within an assumed hierarchically structured institution and I foreground the range of influencing voices surrounding the feedback process.

Findings indicate the multiplicity of voices involved in the feedback process, besides the limitations to the potential for dialogic tutor-student feedback practices within the context of the conflation of summative and formative assessment and the complexity of hierarchical relationships. These findings, together with an operationalisation of Bakhtin’s theories, are of professional value to educators in deepening understanding of the nature of feedback around writing in Higher Education and in reconsidering feedback practices.

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