Towards a radical reframing of feedback in higher education
Feedback is often described as a source of frustration. For students, feedback often feels of limited relevance to future work; for educators, time invested in providing comments appears to be wasted when students do not appear to engage fully with their advice; and for institutional leaders, student satisfaction metrics appear stubbornly resistant to change in response to a wide range of practice interventions. In this keynote, I seek to question whether the connotations associated with the term ‘feedback’ might be partly responsible for these collective frustrations. I will trace the origins of the term in educational discourse, and highlight how the perceived meaning of the term can shape both cognition and behaviour within the context of feedback processes. In particular, I will draw upon my recent programme of research which explores the ways in which the concept of feedback is framed in the research literature, in strategic documentation, in metrics, and in practice. I will invite delegates to consider an alternative higher education landscape where the very notion of ‘feedback’ is questioned and repositioned, through addressing two critical questions: How does the discourse of feedback influence the ways in which feedback processes are enacted, how students are positioned in these processes, and the impact of these processes? Might we be able to move beyond the current impasse in higher education by reframing the very notion of feedback and how it is discussed in policy and practice?