Feedback practices and student surveys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Just as students repeatedly rate the provision of feedback poorly, so studies on feedback in higher education repeatedly begin by lamenting this sad state of affairs. The hidden assumption (also implicit in the title of this article) is that better feedback will result in better survey responses. While they are unlikely to be independent variables, belief in
a simple equivalence relation is surely naïve, especially given that feedback is itself a concept that lacks a widely agreed definition (Price, Handley and Millar, 2011; Juwah et
al, 2004). After a summary of common reasons given for the poor rating of feedback, this paper will explore the question of how feedback can be defined, with the suggestion that since feedback is commonly defined in terms of what it is for rather than what it is, it is perhaps unsurprising that capturing its efficacy in terms of five NSS questions explicitly connected to assessment has proven unsatisfactory. Commonalities in the literature for ‘best practice’ in feedback will be investigated, in light of which the relationship between quality feedback and student survey response will be re-examined. I will suggest that the most effective strategy may be to address how we assess rather than focusing solely on feedback processes. Based on recent research into the teaching of composition in higher education, in particular examining the stated aims and observed practice of a wide range of professional composer-teachers, it will be suggested that the one-to-one composition lesson is peculiar even within the standard model of individual education in music, in that it is ‘all feedback’. Finally, possibilities for taking these processes beyond the composition studio and into the classroom and lecture theatre will be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-66
JournalYork Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

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