Sustainable Feedback: Students' and Tutors' Perceptions

By Geitz, Gerry; Brinke, Desiree Joosten-ten et al. | The Qualitative Report, November 2016 | Go to article overview

Sustainable Feedback: Students' and Tutors' Perceptions


Geitz, Gerry, Brinke, Desiree Joosten-ten, Kirschner, Paul A., The Qualitative Report


Feedback has been shown to substantially influence students' learning. However, not everything characterized as feedback is effective. Sustainable feedback places students in an active role in which they generate and use feedback from peers, self or others and aims at developing lifelong learning skills. First-year higher education students and tutors received sustainable feedback during their problem-based learning. To gain insights into how they perceived the sustainable feedback, students were probed via structured, open-ended questionnaires. While all participants positively valued the feedback, their personal characteristics, previous experience with feedback and concomitant perceptions appeared to have greatly influenced both tutors' and students' specific, individual behavior and responses. Conclusion is that sustainable feedback requires an evolving role of students and tutors with respect to sharing their perceptions of what feedback is, understanding the value and importance of feedback contributions of all participants, and developing the necessary skills to ask questions and give feedback. Keywords: Sustainable Feedback, Perceptions, Individual Characteristics, Asking and Seeking, Self-Efficacy, Goal Orientation

During their studies in higher education students are preparing themselves for entering the labor market successfully after they graduate. It can be questioned what and how they should learn in order to become lifelong learners. Lifelong learning skills, such as monitoring and evaluating one's own learning process, should be developed while studying in higher education. From previous research it is known that feedback can have a significant effect on learning, however, not everything that is called feedback contributes to learning positively. In this study it investigated how feedback, directed at becoming lifelong learners is perceived by students and tutors.

Sustainable Feedback

While teachers in higher education spend much time and effort providing their students with feedback, the quality of this feedback can be improved (Arts, Jaspers, & Joosten-ten Brinke, 2015). One way to do this, according to Boud and Molloy (2013), is to have the feedback be sought and asked for by students instead of having teachers give the feedback without prior solicitation. This type of feedback is known as sustainable feedback (Carless, 2006). Hattie and Timperley (2007) define feedback as "information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self) regarding aspects of one's performance or understanding" (p. 81). This information should address the gap between what a person has mastered about a task, process, or their self-regulation and what is aimed or required to be mastered (Sadler, 1989). Feedback, as an educational approach or intervention has been found to have a considerable positive effect on learning, with Hattie (2013) reporting an overall effect size of 0.75. However, not everything that is characterized as feedback effectively leads to learning (Boud & Molloy, 2013). Traditionally, feedback is seen as a one-way activity initiated by the teacher (i.e., someone with more knowledgeable in a position of authority and power), who sends feedback messages to learners about the quality of their work with the objective of improving it. It can be questioned whether this provided feedback of the teacher contributes most effectively to the needs of the students in higher education. For example, feedback that is given as a one-way activity might place students in a passive role and might prohibit them to decode and internalise the feedback message.

Society and the students' future working environment are in continuous, fast-paced change which requires corresponding learning outcomes (Nijhuis, Segers, & Gijselaers, 2005). This dynamic needs to be reflected in the intended learning outcomes of higher education such that students are equipped to become self-initiating seekers and users of information necessary for ongoing learning throughout their working lifetime (Boud, 2000). …

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