The nature of written feedback: A study of postgraduate lecturers' perspectives

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Edlin, Angela
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Education
Unitec Institute of Technology
Panko, Mary
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
written feedback
tertiary education
qualitative research
lecturers' views
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Edlin, A. (2011). The nature of written feedback: A study of postgraduate lecturers’ perspectives. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
Written feedback is a commonly applied method by which lecturers provide comments to students when a piece of work is assessed. The aim of this study was to capture the espoused views and practice of lecturers when providing written feedback, to ascertain the relationship between views and practice. Using a qualitative methodology, this study explored the views and practices of lecturers who provide written feedback to postgraduate students on assessments. Eleven lecturers teaching postgraduate students within a social sciences faculty in a New Zealand tertiary institution participated in this study. Individual interviews were conducted to gain insight into lecturers’ espoused views on written feedback, and documentary analysis was carried out to explore written feedback practice. One aspect that emerged from the study was the opportunity for lecturers to have a ‘voice’ and engage in discussion about written feedback. This has led to a recommendation for more dialogue around written feedback practice. Key findings from the research study showed that lecturers believed: • that the main role of written feedback was to improve students’ work; • that attributing grades and providing feedback play a fundamental role in written feedback; and • that their own individual style influences the written feedback they provide. It was also found that: • in certain aspects of written feedback, there are clear areas of alignment between what lecturers value and how they actually practice. Recommendations from this study stem from the researcher’s belief, that a deeper understanding of what lecturers think about their written feedback is needed. In addition, the continued use of professional development opportunities to discuss written feedback amongst colleagues is warranted. New lecturers should have an induction and mentoring programme that has a specific emphasis on written feedback, so that written feedback is not lost in the broader topic of assessment. Experienced lecturers should address their own written feedback practice through discussion within their academic programmes, providing examples and exemplars to model the diversity of effective written feedback practice.
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