Exploring the Emotional Responses of Undergraduate Students to Assessment Feedback: Implications for Instructors
Keywords:emotions, assessment feedback, thematic analysis, feedback literacy, learning attitudes and behaviours
Summative assessments tend to be viewed as high-stakes episodes by students, directly exposing their capabilities as learners. As such, receiving feedback is likely to evoke a variety of emotions that may interact with cognitive engagement and hence the ability to learn. Our research investigated the emotions experienced by undergraduate students in relation to assessment feedback, exploring if these emotions informed their learning attitudes and behaviours. Respondents were drawn from different years of study and subject/major. A qualitative approach was adopted, using small group, semi-structured interviews and reflective diaries. Data were analysed thematically and they revealed that receiving feedback was inherently emotional for students, permeating their wider learning experience positively and negatively. Many students struggled to receive and act upon negative feedback, especially in early years, when it was often taken personally and linked to a sense of failure. Negative emotional responses tended to reduce students’ motivation, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Some students, especially in later years of study, demonstrated resilience and engagement in response to negative feedback. By contrast, positive feedback evoked intense but fleeting emotions. Positive feedback made students feel cared about, validating their self-worth and increasing their confidence, but it was not always motivational. The paper concludes with recommendations for instructors, highlighting a need to communicate feedback carefully and to develop student and staff feedback literacies.
Barnett, Ronald. 2007. “Assessment in Higher Education: An Impossible Mission?” In Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education, edited by David Boud and Nancy Falchikov, 29–40. London: Routledge.
Boud, David, and Elizabeth Molloy. 2013. “Rethinking Models of Feedback for Learning: The Challenge of Design.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 38, no. 6: 698–712. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2012.691462.
Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2013. Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. London: SAGE Publications.
Carless, David. 2009. “Trust, Distrust and Their Impact on Assessment Reform.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 34, no. 1: 79–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930801895786.
Carless, David. 2019. “Feedback Loops and the Longer-Term: Towards Feedback Spirals.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 44, no. 5: 705–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1531108.
Carless, David, and David Boud. 2018. “The Development of Student Feedback Literacy: Enabling Uptake of Feedback.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 43, no. 8: 1315–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463354.
Carless, David, Diane Salter, Min Yang, and Joy Lam. 2011. “Developing Sustainable Feedback Practices.” Studies in Higher Education 36, no. 4: 395–407. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075071003642449.
Crossman, Joanna. 2007. “The Role of Relationships and Emotions in Student Perceptions of Learning and Assessment.” Higher Education Research & Development 26, no. 3: 313–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360701494328.
Dowden, Tony, Sharon Pittaway, Helen Yost, and Robyn McCarthy. 2013. “Students’ Perceptions of Written Feedback in Teacher Education: Ideally Feedback is a Continuing Two-Way Communication that Encourages Progress.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38, no. 3: 349–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2011.632676.
Falchikov, Nancy, and David Boud. 2007. “Assessment and Emotion: The Impact of Being Assessed.” In Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education, edited by David Boud and Nancy Falchikov, 144–56. London: Routledge.
Felten, Peter. 2017. “Emotion and Partnerships.” International Journal for Students as Partners 1, no. 2: 1–5. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i2.3070.
Felten, Peter, Leigh Z. Gilchrist, and Alexa Darby. 2006. “Emotion and Learning: Feeling Our Way Toward a New Theory of Reflection in Service-Learning.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 12, no. 2: 38–46. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3239521.0012.204.
Ferguson, Peter. 2011. “Student Perceptions of Quality Feedback in Teacher Education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 36, no. 1: 51–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930903197883.
Fong, Carlton J., Jayce R. Warner, Kyle M. Williams, Diane L. Schallert, Ling-Hui Chen, Zachary H. Williamson, and Shengjie Lin. 2016. “Deconstructing Constructive Criticism: The Nature of Academic Emotions Associated with Constructive, Positive, and Negative Feedback.” Learning and Individual Differences 49: 393–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.05.019.
Fong, Carlton J., Diane L. Schallert, Kyle. M. Williams, Zachary H. Williamson, Jayce R. Warner, Shengjie Lin, and Young W. Kim. 2018. “When Feedback Signals Failure but Offers Hope for Improvement: A Process Model of Constructive Criticism.” Thinking Skills and Creativity 30: 42–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2018.02.014.
Fong, Carlton J., Erika A. Patall, Ariana C. Vasquez, and Sandra Stautberg. 2019. “Meta-analysis of Negative Feedback on Intrinsic Motivation.” Educational Psychology Review 31: 121–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-018-9446-6.
Forsythe, Alex, and Sophie Johnson. 2017. “Thanks, But No-Thanks for the Feedback.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 42, no. 6: 850–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1202190.
Francis, Robert A., James D.A. Millington, and Gustav Cederlöf. 2019. “Undergraduate Student Perceptions of Assessment and Feedback Practice: Fostering Agency and Dialogue.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 43, no. 4: 468–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2019.1660867.
Hattie, John, and Helen Timperley. 2007. “The Power of Feedback.” Review of Educational Research 77, no. 1: 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487.
Hill, Jennifer, and Harry West. 2020. “Improving the Student Learning Experience through Dialogic Feed-Forward Assessment.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 45, no. 1: 82–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1608908.
Hill, Jennifer, Ruth L. Healey, Harry West, and Chantal Déry. 2019. “Pedagogic Partnership in Higher Education: Encountering Emotion in Learning and Enhancing Student Wellbeing.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2019.1661366.
Kim, Eun J., and Kyeong R. Lee. 2019. “Effects of an Examiner’s Positive and Negative Feedback on Self-assessment of Skill Performance, Emotional Response, and Self-Efficacy in Korea: A Quasi-experimental Study.” BMC Medical Education 19: Article 142. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1595-x.
Lizzio, Alf, Keithia L. Wilson, Jan Gilchrist, and Cindy Gallois. 2003. “The Role of Gender in the Construction and Evaluation of Feedback Effectiveness.” Management Communication Quarterly 16, no. 3: 341–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318902238895.
Lowe, Tom, and Cassie Shaw. 2019. “Student Perceptions of the ‘Best’ Feedback Practices: An Evaluation of Student-Led Teaching Award Nominations at a Higher Education Institution.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 7, no. 2: 121–35. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.7.2.8.
Miles, Matthew B., and A. Michael Huberman. 1994. An Expanded Sourcebook Qualitative Data Analysis. 2nd Ed. London: SAGE Publications.
Nicol, David J., and Debra Macfarlane-Dick. 2006. “Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning: A Model and Seven Principles of Good Feedback Practice.” Studies in Higher Education 31, no. 2: 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070600572090.
Orsmond, Paul, and Stephen Merry. 2011. “Feedback Alignment: Effective and Ineffective Links between Tutors’ and Students’ Understanding of Coursework Feedback.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 36, no. 2: 125–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930903201651.
Pekrun, Reinhard. 2006. “The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: Assumptions, Corollaries and Implications for Educational Research and Practice.” Educational Psychology Review 18: 315–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-006-9029-9.
Pekrun, Reinhard. 2019. “Inquiry on Emotions in Higher Education: Progress and Open Problems.” Studies in Higher Education 44, no. 10: 1806–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1665335.
Pekrun, Reinhard, and Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, eds. 2014. International Handbook of Emotions in Education. New York: Routledge.
Pekrun, Reinhard, Thomas Goetz, Wolfram Titz, and Raymond P. Perry. 2002. “Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: A Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research.” Educational Psychologist 37, no. 2: 91–105. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15326985EP3702_4.
Pekrun, Reinhard, Thomas Goetz, Anne C. Frenzel, Petra Barchfeld, and Raymond P. Perry. 2011. “Measuring emotions in students’ learning and performance: The Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ).” Contemporary Educational Psychology 36, no. 1: 36–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.10.002.
Pitt, Edd, and Lin Norton. 2017. “‘Now That’s the Feedback I Want!’ Students’ Reactions to Feedback on Graded Work and What They Do with It.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42, no. 4: 499–516. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1142500.
Pitt, Edd, Margaret Bearman, and Rachelle Esterhazy. 2020. “The Conundrum of Low Achievement and Feedback for Learning.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 45, no. 2: 239–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1630363.
Poulos, Ann, and Mary Jane Mahony. 2008. “Effectiveness of Feedback: The Students’ Perspective.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 33, no. 2: 143–54. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930601127869.
Ritchie, Laura. 2016. Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students. London: Palgrave.
Robinson, Sarita, Debbie Pope, and Lynda Holyoak. 2013. “Can We Meet Their Expectations? Experiences and Perceptions of Feedback in First Year Undergraduate Students.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38, no. 3: 260–72. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2011.629291.
Ryan, Tracii, and Michael Henderson. 2018. “Feeling Feedback: Students’ Emotional Responses to Educator Feedback.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 43, no.6: 880–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1416456.
Schutz, Paul A., and Reinhard Pekrun. 2007. Emotion in Education. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
Shafi, Adeela A., Jenny Hatley, Tristan Middleton, Richard Millican, and Sian Templeton. 2018. “The Role of Assessment Feedback in Developing Academic Buoyancy.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 43, no. 3: 415–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1356265.
Shields, Sam. 2015. “‘My Work is Bleeding’: Exploring Students’ Emotional Responses to First Year Assignment Feedback.” Teaching in Higher Education 20, no. 6: 614–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2015.1052786.
Small, Felicity, and Kath Attree. 2016. “Undergraduate Student Responses to Feedback: Expectations and Experiences.” Studies in Higher Education 41, no. 11: 2078–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1007944.
Strauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin. 1994. “Grounded Theory Methodology: An Overview.” In Handbook for Qualitative Research, edited by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, 273–85. London: SAGE Publications.
Värlander, Sara. 2008. “The Role of Students’ Emotions in Formal Feedback Situations.” Teaching in Higher Education 13, no. 2: 145–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562510801923195.
Weiss, Palumbo R. 2000. “Emotion and Learning.” Training & Development 54: 44–48.
Winstone, Naomi E., Robert A. Nash, James Rowntree, and Michael Parker. 2017. “‘It’d Be Useful, But I Wouldn’t Use It’: Barriers to University Students’ Feedback Seeking and Recipience.” Studies in Higher Education 42, no. 11: 2026–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1130032.
Winstone, Naomi E., Erica G. Hepper, and Robert A. Nash. 2019. “Individual Differences in Self-Reported Use of Assessment Feedback: The Mediating Role of Feedback Beliefs.” Educational Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2019.1693510.
Xu, Yueting, and David Carless. 2017. “‘Only True Friends Could Be Cruelly Honest’: Cognitive Scaffolding and Social-Affective Support in Teacher Feedback Literacy.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42, no. 7: 1082–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1226759.
Young, Pat. 2000. “‘I Might as Well Give Up’: Self-Esteem and Mature Students’ Feelings About Feedback on Assignments.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 24, no. 3: 409–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/030987700750022325.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Jennifer Hill, Kathy Berlin, Julia Choate, Lisa Cravens-Brown, Lisa McKendrick-Calder, Susan Smith
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.