Dialogic Feed-Forward in Assessment: Pivotal to Learning but not Unproblematic





learning-focused feedback, dialogic feed-forward, feedback literacy, social constructivism, case study


A key debate in higher education is how assessment and feedback can be constructed to maximize opportunities for meaningful student learning. In this paper, we explore how a learning-focused model of feedback, teacher-student dialogic feed-forward, is enacted in practice, exposing many affordances but also some challenges. Adopting a small-scale intensive approach, we trace the learning journeys of four students through a second-year undergraduate unit at a British university and on into their third and final year of study, accessing verbal testimony, teacher written comments on draft and final summative coursework, and student performance within and beyond the unit. We present in-depth student responses, understanding, behaviours, and achievement with respect to the feed-forward dialogue, revealing the subtleties of their reactions. Our findings evidence the transformative power of assessment dialogue on student learning for a range of achievers. Dialogic feed-forward can act as a pivotal moment in learning, where students reflect on their work, judge their standards against criteria, and co-create positive actions for improvement. Students develop cognitively, meta-cognitively, and affectively, becoming more comfortable with challenge and more productive in their learning. We conclude by widening our frame of reference to problematize dialogic feed-forward within current debates about higher education pedagogy.


Metrics Loading ...

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 (GBR).

Harry West, University of the West of England, Bristol

Harry West is a Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Management at the University of the West of England, Bristol (GBR).


Ball, Stephen J. 2012. “Performativity, Commodification and Commitment: An I-spy Guide to the Neoliberal University.” British Journal of Educational Studies 60: 17–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2011.650940.

Bearman, Margaret, and Elizabeth Molloy. 2017. “Intellectual Streaking: The Value of Teachers Exposing Minds (and Hearts).” Medical Teacher 39: 1284–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2017.1308475.

Blair, Alasdair, and Samantha McGinty. 2013. “Feedback-Dialogues: Exploring the Student Perspective.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38: 466–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2011.649244.

Boud, David, and Elizabeth Molloy. 2013. “Rethinking Models of Feedback for Learning: The Challenge of Design.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38: 698–712. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2012.691462.

Boud, David, Romy Lawson, and Derrall G. Thompson. 2013. “Does Student Engagement in Self-assessment Calibrate Their Judgement Over Time?” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38: 941–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2013.769198.

Braun, Virginia, and Victoria Clarke. 2013. Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners. London: SAGE Publications.

Brearley, Francis Q., and W. Rod Cullen. 2012. “Providing Students with Formative Audio Feedback.” Bioscience Education 20: 22–36. https://doi.org/10.11120/beej.2012.20000022.

Carless, David. 2007. “Learning‐oriented Assessment: Conceptual Bases and Practical Implications.” Innovations in Education and Teaching International 44: 57–66. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703290601081332.

Carless, David. 2019. “Feedback Loops and the Longer-Term: Towards Feedback Spirals.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 44: 705–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1531108.

Carless, David. 2020. “Longitudinal Perspectives on Students’ Experiences of Feedback: A Need for Teacher–student Partnerships.” Higher Education Research & Development 39: 425–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2019.1684455.

Carless, David, and David Boud. 2018. “The Development of Student Feedback Literacy: Enabling Uptake of Feedback.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 43: 1315–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463354.

Carless, David, and Kennedy Kam Ho Chan. 2017. “Managing Dialogic Use of Exemplars.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42: 930–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1211246.

Carless, David, Diane Salter, Min Yang, and Joy Lam. 2011. “Developing Sustainable Feedback Practices.” Studies in Higher Education 36: 395–407. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075071003642449.

Chalmers, Charlotte, Elaine Mowat, and Maggie Chapman. 2018. “Marking and Providing Feedback Face-to-Face: Staff and Student Perspectives.” Active Learning in Higher Education 19: 35–45. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787417721363.

Cowan, John. 2010. “Developing the Ability for Making Evaluative Judgements.” Teaching in Higher Education 15: 323–34. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562510903560036.

Deeley, Susan J., and Catherine Bovill. 2017. “Staff Student Partnership in Assessment: Enhancing Assessment Literacy Through Democratic Practices.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42: 463–77. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1126551.

Denzin, Norman K., and Yvonna S. Lincoln. 2011. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (4th ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Dweck, Carol S. 2006. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.

Ellsworth, Elizabeth. 1997. Teaching Positions: Difference Pedagogy and the Power of Address. New York: Teachers College Press.

Eysenck, Hans J. 1976. “Introduction.” In Case Studies in Behaviour Therapy, edited by Hans. J. Eysenck, 1–15. London: Routledge.

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://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10648-018-9446-6.

Fraile, Juan, Ernesto Panadero, and Rodrigo Pardo. 2017. “Co-creating Rubrics: The Effects on Self-regulated Learning, Self-efficacy and Performance of Establishing Assessment Criteria with Students.” Studies in Educational Evaluation 53, 69–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2017.03.003.

Freire, Paulo. 1998. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Handley, Karen, and Lindsay Williams. 2011. “From Copying to Learning: Using Exemplars to Engage Students with Assessment Criteria and Feedback.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 36: 95–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930903201669.

Hawe, Eleanor, and Helen Dixon. 2017. “Assessment for Learning: A Catalyst for Student Self-regulation.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42: 1181–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1236360.

Henderson, Michael, Tracii Ryan, and Michael Phillips. 2019. “The Challenges of Feedback in Higher Education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 44: 1237–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1599815.

Hill, Jennifer, and Harry West. 2020. “Improving the Student Learning Experience Through Dialogic Feed-Forward Assessment.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 45: 82–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1608908.

Hill, Jennifer, Greg Thomas, Anita Diaz, and David Simm. 2016. “Borderland Spaces for

Learning Partnership: Opportunities, Benefits and Challenges.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 40: 375–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2016.1144728.

Hill, Jennifer, Ruth L. Healey, Harry West, and Chantal Dery. 2021a. “Pedagogic Partnership in Higher Education: Encountering Emotion in Learning and Enhancing Student Wellbeing.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education 45: 167–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2019.1661366.

Hill, Jennifer, Kathy Berlin, Julia Choate, Lisa Cravens-Brown, Lisa McKendrick-Calder, and Susan Smith. 2021b. “Exploring the Emotional Responses of Undergraduate Students to Assessment Feedback: Implications for Instructors.” Teaching & Learning Inquiry Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9: 294–316. https://journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/index.php/TLI/article/view/70733.

Hill, Jennifer, Kathy Berlin, Julia Choate, Lisa Cravens-Brown, Lisa McKendrick-Calder, and Susan Smith. 2021c “Can Relational Feed-Forward Enhance Students’ Cognitive and Affective Responses to Assessment, Supporting Their Wellbeing?” Teaching & Learning Inquiry 9. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.9.2.18.

Johnson, Christina E., Jennifer L. Keating, and Elizabeth K. Molloy. 2020. “Psychological Safety in Feedback: What Does It Look Like and How Can Educators Work with Learners to Foster It?” Medical Education 54: 559–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.14154.

Kapur, Manu. 2008. “Productive Failure.” Cognition and Instruction 26: 379–424. https://doi.org/10.1080/07370000802212669.

Mays, Nicholas, and Catherine Pope. 2000. “Qualitative Research in Health Care: Assessing Quality in Qualitative Research.” British Medical Journal, 320: 50–52. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7226.50.

Nicol, David. 2010. “From Monologue to Dialogue: Improving Written Feedback Processes in Mass Higher Education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 35: 501–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602931003786559.

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: 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070600572090.

Orsmond, Paul, Steven Merry, and Kevin Reiling. 2000. “The Use of Student Derived Marking Criteria in Peer and Self-assessment.” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 25: 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930050025006.

Pitt, Edd, Margaret Bearman, and Rachelle Esterhazy. 2020. “The Conundrum of Low Achievement and Feedback for Learning.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 45: 239–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1630363.

Price, Margaret, Karen Handley, and Jill Millar. 2011. “Feedback: Focussing Attention on Engagement.” Studies in Higher Education 36: 879–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2010.483513.

Reimann, Nicola, Ian Sadler, and Kay Sambell. 2019. “What’s in a Word? Practices Associated with ‘Feedforward’ in Higher Education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 44: 1279–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2019.1600655.

Ritchie, Laura. 2016. Fostering Self-Efficacy in Higher Education Students. London: Palgrave.

Ryan, Tracii, and Michael Henderson. 2018. “Feeling Feedback: Students’ Emotional Responses to Educator Feedback.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 43: 880–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1416456.

Sadler, D. Royce. 2010. “Beyond Feedback: Developing Student Capability in Complex Appraisal.” Assessment & Evalaution in Higher Education 35: 535–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930903541015.

Sambell, Kay, Liz McDowell, and Catherine Montgomery. 2012. Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Simons, Helen. 2009. Case Study Research in Practice. London: Sage.

Steen-Utheim, Anna, and Anne L. Wittek. 2017. “Dialogic Feedback and Potentialities for Student Learning.” Learning, Culture and Social Interaction 15: 18–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lcsi.2017.06.002.

Tai, Joanna, Rola Ajjawi, David Boud, Phillip Dawson, and Ernesto Panadero. 2018. “Developing Evaluative Judgement: Enabling Students to Make Decisions About the Quality of Work.” Higher Education 76: 467–81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-017-0220-3.

Torrance, Harry. 2007. “Assessment as Learning? How the Use of Explicit Learning Objectives, Assessment Criteria and Feedback in Post‐secondary Education and Training can Come to Dominate Learning.” Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice 14: 281–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/09695940701591867.

Torrance, Harry. 2017. “Blaming the Victim: Assessment, Examinations, and the Responsibilisation of Students and Teachers in Neo-Liberal Governance.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 38: 83–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2015.1104854.

Vardi, Iris. 2012. “The Impact of Iterative Writing and Feedback on the Characteristics of Tertiary Students’ Written Texts.” Teaching in Higher Education 17: 167–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2011.611865.

Watson, Cate, Anna Wilson, Valerie Drew, and Terrie Lynn Thompson. 2017. “Small Data, Online Learning and Assessment Practices in Higher Education: A Case Study of Failure?” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42: 1030–45. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2016.1223834.

Winstone, Naomi, and David Boud. 2019. “Exploring Cultures of Feedback Practice: The Adoption of Learning-Focused Feedback Practices in the UK and Australia.” Higher Education Research & Development 38: 411–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1532985.

Winstone, Naomi, and David Carless. 2020. Designing Effective Feedback Processes in Higher Education. A learning-focused approach. Abingdon: Routledge.

Winstone, Naomi E., Robert A. Nash, Michael Parker, and James Rowntree. 2017. “Supporting Learners’ Agentic Engagement with Feedback: A Systematic Review and a Taxonomy of Recipience Processes.” Educational Psychologist 52: 17–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2016.1207538.

A feed forward meeting in progress.




How to Cite

Hill, Jennifer, and Harry West. 2022. “Dialogic Feed-Forward in Assessment: Pivotal to Learning But Not Unproblematic”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 10 (June). https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.10.20.