THE EFFICACY OF FEEDBACK IN THE FIRST YEAR PROGRAMME: A COMPARISON OF THE VIEWS OF STUDENTS AND STAFF

Jon Scott, Alan Cann, Chris Willmott, Jo Badge, Ruth Bevan

Abstract


Feedback has been defined as ‘information about the gap between actual performance level and the reference level, which is subsequently used to alter that gap’. It is now widely acknowledged that feedback forms an essential part of the learning cycle, allowing students to assess their performance and make improvements to future work.  However, despite acceptance of the importance of feedback by academics, results from the recent National Student Survey (2005) have highlighted students’ general dissatisfaction with the feedback they receive. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of feedback on the first year of the Biological Sciences degree at the University of Leicester, by comparison of the perceptions of students and staff on a number of aspects of the current feedback process. Although a structured approach to giving feedback is encouraged within the School of Biological Sciences, there will be remaining differences in the way staff and students conceptualise the roles of feedback and its format.

                The views of students studying on the 1st and 2nd years of the Biological Sciences degree were ascertained using a questionnaire addressing various aspects of feedback including, quantity, timing, use and quality. The response rates to the questionnaire were high for both years and the views of students with a range of academic abilities were represented; statistical analysis showed the data obtained to be reliable.  In addition, focus groups were used to further explore the views of 1st year students. Semi-structured discussions were led by non-teaching staff, allowing for an informal environment to encourage full participation from students with a range of academic abilities. Staff views on the feedback process were sought during semi-structured one-on-one interviews, again allowing an informal environment for discussion. The staff cohort comprised the majority of 1st year module course convenors, a group of 1st year personal tutors, representative of most departments within the School of Biological Sciences and staff from the Student Learning Centre.


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