Exploring students’ concepts of feedback as articulated in large-scale surveys: a useful proxy and some encouraging nuances

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Surveys asking Higher Education students about feedback tend to find similar results: feedback should be prompt, specific, understandable and regular. Efforts to improve the feedback experience therefore emphasises that feedback be more frequent, detailed and turnaround times reduced. However, indications that students misunderstand key phrases in the questions or have limited conceptions of feedback have also led to suggestions that these surveys should not be as influentialas they currently are.

To explore students’ understanding of feedback in greater detail, 613 students completed a 35-item survey about a specific time they received feedback during a work-based learning placement. Results indicate that students typically saw feedback as straightforward communication where an exper ttells them what to do. However, principal component analysis of the survey responses indicated a pattern of responses in which students tacitly hold a more sophisticated understanding of feedback.Their patterns of response directly challenge many of the ways that feedback provision is currently monitored, suggesting better ways to evaluate and improve feedback provision. Curiously, these patterns of response had a close relationship with the standard questions used in the UK’s National Student Survey. Results therefore suggest that this national survey is still a robust measure of satisfaction with feedback, but learning how to improve the feedback experience requires asking different questions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalPractitioner Research in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Feedback
  • Feedforward
  • Work-based learning
  • Mentoring
  • Dialogue
  • Student satisfaction


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