Ripples on a pond: engaging students through their responses to formative feedback

Research paper


Feedback from tutors to students is central to teaching and learning. Formative feedback in particular supports students’ learning development and aims to enable them to complete assignments more effectively and successfully. According to Race (2002), feedback should bounce back into the ripples of learning to keep it going. However, usually feedback is a one-way process, where the tutor informs the student what they have done well, and what they need to improve on their draft assignments. Sometimes, the limitations of one-way feedback mean that students do not engage with it, or do not understand it, while tutors may put a great deal of effort into feedback and may feel frustrated when students do not appear to follow it. Therefore, this study reports on an approach to make more use of feedback, in which students are encouraged to write responses to formative feedback on long assignments, and to submit these responses with their revised drafts. In this way, students are required to engage with the feedback, explain how they will respond to it, and what their strategies are to improve their drafts. Initial results show that students did display engagement with feedback in their responses. It was noticeable that they focused on specific instructions on parts of their work from the feedback, and did not address some of the more general, large-scale feedback. Thus, tutors were able to get some insights into the reasons for students’ revisions or lack of revisions, and their decision-making process while redrafting.  The study could be useful both for educators as a means of engaging students in feedback, and for students to gain more from feedback by becoming co-constructors of the teaching and learning relationship.

Keywords:  responses; formative feedback, evidence-based policy development and evaluation, assessment practice