Can Relational Feed-Forward Enhance Students’ Cognitive and Affective Responses to Assessment?


  • Jennifer Hill University of Gloucestershire
  • Kathy Berlin Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Julia Choate Monash University
  • Lisa Cravens-Brown Ohio State University
  • Lisa McKendrick-Calder MacEwan University
  • Susan Smith Leeds Beckett University



assessment feedback, relational feed-forward, thematic analysis, emotional resonance, wellbeing


Assessment feedback should be an integral part of learning in higher education, but students can find this process emotionally and cognitively challenging. Instructors need to consider how to manage students’ responses to feedback so that students feel capable of improving their work and maintaining their wellbeing. In this paper, we examine the role of instructor-student relational feed-forward, enacted as a dialogue relating to ongoing assessment, in dissipating student anxiety, enabling productive learning attitudes and behaviours, and supporting wellbeing. We undertook qualitative data collection within two undergraduate teaching units that were adopting a relational feed-forward intervention over the 2019–2020 academic year. Student responses were elicited via small group, semi-structured interviews and personal reflective diaries, and were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. The results demonstrate that relational feed-forward promotes many elements of student feedback literacy, such as appreciating the purpose and value of feedback, judging work against a rubric, exercising volition and agency to act, and managing affect. Students were keen for instructors to help them manage their emotions related to assessment, believing this would promote their wellbeing. We conclude by exploring academic strategies and pedagogies that position relational instructor feed-forward as an act of care, and we summarize the key characteristics of emotionally resonant relational feed-forward meetings.


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Author Biographies

Jennifer Hill, University of Gloucestershire

Jennifer Hill, PhD, is Professor of Higher Education Pedagogies and Head of Learning & Teaching Innovation at the University of Gloucestershire, UK.

Kathy Berlin, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Kathryn Berlin, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Program Director for Health Sciences at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Indiana.

Julia Choate, Monash University

Julia Choate, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Director of Physiology Education at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. 

Lisa Cravens-Brown, Ohio State University

Lisa Cravens-Brown is Associate Vice Chair for Instruction in the Department of Psychology at The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, USA.

Lisa McKendrick-Calder, MacEwan University

Lisa Mckendrick-Calder, MN, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nursing Sciences at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Susan Smith, Leeds Beckett University

Susan Smith, PhD, is a Professor in Teaching and Learning and Associate Director of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at Leeds Beckett, University, Leeds, UK.


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How to Cite

Hill, Jennifer, Kathy Berlin, Julia Choate, Lisa Cravens-Brown, Lisa McKendrick-Calder, and Susan Smith. 2021. “Can Relational Feed-Forward Enhance Students’ Cognitive and Affective Responses to Assessment?”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9 (2).