Effects of temporary mark withholding on academic performance

Carolina E. Kuepper-Tetzel, Paul L. Gardner

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Although feedback engagement is important for learning, students often do not engage with provided feedback to inform future assignments. One factor for low feedback uptake is the easy access to grades. Thus, systematically delaying the grade release in favor of providing feedback first—temporary mark withholding—may increase students’ engagement with feedback. We tested the hypothesis that temporary mark withholding would have positive effects on (a) future academic performance (Experiments 1 and 2) and (b) feedback engagement (Experiment 2) in authentic psychology university settings. For Experiment 1, 116 Year 2 students were randomly assigned to either a Grade-before-feedback or Feedback-before-grade condition for their report in semester 1 and performance was measured on a similar assessment in semester 2. In Experiment 2, a Year 3 student cohort (t) was provided with feedback on their lab report before marks were released in semester 1 (mark withholding group, N = 97) and compared to the previous Year 3 cohort (t-1) where individual feedback and grades were released simultaneously (historical control group, N = 90). Using this multi-methodological approach, we reveal positive effects of temporary mark withholding on future academic performance and students’ feedback engagement in authentic higher education settings. Practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology Learning & Teaching
VolumeOnline First
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Mar 2021


  • Assessment strategy
  • Mark withholding
  • Use of feedback


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