The aim of this study was to establish and evaluate a method of recording tutor feedback given to students during the undergraduate dissertation tutorial process. The areas under review included both the tutorials themselves and written comments provided on draft work. Attention was paid to how effective these mechanisms were in supporting students through the dissertation process. Twelve sports education undergraduate students were asked to complete a dissertation feedback evaluation proforma after tutorials they attended between September 2006 and April 2007. The form covered key aspects of the student-tutor relationship, with specific reference being made to the strengths and weaknesses of tutorial feedback and support. The findings of the evaluation identified key issues for practice within the dissertation supervisory relationship. Furthermore, it was suggested by the students that this was an exercise with inherent merits for them: encouraging reflection on the learning process and helping them identify their responsibilities as independent learners. As a result, some students engaged more with the tutorial system and gained more from the experience.
Keywords: dissertations; feedback; student; tutorials; undergraduate
Contemporary higher education is characterised by increasing student numbers and increasing diversity within that population. Consequently, academic staff face considerable demands on their time as workloads increase in response to the new climate (Ujma, 2007). The burdens placed on academic staff time have led to many feeling under more pressure when providing feedback and marking students' work. Yet providing informative, constructive and realistic feedback to students is a crucial part of any learning experience (Castle, Incledon, & Waring, 2008). Given these pressures, it is important to consider how to give good quality feedback in a clear and consistent manner within a time-constrained setting such as a face-to-face dissertation meeting.
The shift in the professional environment would suggest there is a sound pedagogic argument for reflecting on the effectiveness of the feedback process (Mutch, 2003). Evidence of such discussions is now apparent, with feedback mechanisms being reviewed at the national level (Juwah et al., 2004) and at an institutional level (e.g. the authors' own institution requires module teams, as part of the end-of-module evaluation process, to include questions on how students perceived any feedback received). More important, however, feedback, in its various guises, has to enhance the learning experience and support efforts to improve a student's level of academic achievement. Engagement with the feedback process is therefore crucial.
Critiques of feedback have sought to identify the principles that underpin good practice. In 2004, the Student Enhanced Learning through Effective Feedback (SENLEF) project set out seven principles of good feedback, arguing that when it feeds forward it can be instrumental in enhancing the learning experience and should be embedded in curricula. Students should be active recipients of feedback and the process of engaging with feedback should support the notion of students as empowered self-regulated learners (Juwah et al., 2004).
Whilst principles that define good practice are to be welcomed, the practical issues associated with providing feedback must be acknowledged. In light of the aforementioned pressures felt by colleagues, questions are raised about what constitutes feedback and what mechanisms can be used to ensure that students engage with it when offered (through formative or summative means). This aspect of the learning experience is drawn into sharp focus by the National Student Survey (NSS). What is apparent from the national overview of the NSS is that the analytical scale, "Assessment and Feedback", remains an area of practice delivered with varying …