What makes feedback work for primary school students? An investigation of the views of some Year 8 students.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
I investigated the problem of why some students do not implement the feedback they are given, when the feedback they receive is formulated in accordance with what we know about best practice in the giving of feedback. I was interested in exploring the factors which may influence students as they do or do not take some form of action to ‘close the gap’ between the standard they have attained and the standard they need to reach. I worked with seven Year 8 boys who were enrolled at an intermediate school in the South Island of New Zealand. The study is qualitative because the methodologies associated with that paradigm are more likely to provide insights into the problem, situated as it is in the experience of students in a classroom setting.
I used phenomenography to identify the qualitatively different ways in which the participants viewed the importance and helpfulness of feedback as well as identifying the factors which influenced their acceptance or rejection of the feedback received from their classroom teacher. The categories I identified included supporting progress towards short- and long-term learning goals; the effect of feedback on personal attitudes towards learning; the relationship between the student and the teacher; the type and timing of feedback; the perceived ownership of the work to which the feedback related; and the conditions and understandings of the student. I discussed each of these and formed a phenomenographic outcome space for each of the three basic areas of importance, helpfulness, and factors affecting response. I then used a case approach to prepare case reports on two of the participants, in order to show how the categories identified through the phenomenographic analysis might be manifested in individuals as well as to allow the voices of the students to be heard. I found that each individual embodies a unique combination of the categories, and that it is this unique profile which affects his or her reception and subsequent use of feedback.
I then combined the three phenomenographic outcome spaces to form a model of feedback, arranged in four levels, which may be of interest to classroom teachers as they endeavour to improve the learning outcome of the students through tailoring the feedback they give to them. I illustrated the potential use of the model by mapping onto it the profile of the two boys included in the case reports. The differences in, and similarities of, responses of the two boys to feedback are easily discerned. I discussed how these similarities and differences may offer some explanation for differing responses to feedback. To a certain extent the boys have similar outlooks, and may respond in similar ways to feedback which matches with these outlooks. However, at a deeper level, their differences are marked. Feedback which matches the preferences of one is not likely to match those of the other. I argue that in such a case one may accept and act on the feedback while the other may not.
I have identified some areas for further research and development which could build on these findings. These include the need to explore the views of girls and other groups of boys on this subject, together with undertaking a project which allows the academic progress of individuals to be tracked once their preferences were identified and mapped onto the model. It would also be useful to construct a suitable instrument for classroom teachers to use for mapping the preferences of their own class members, and to identify any differences in the modifications to their feedback processes which teachers may make to their classroom practice following their use of such an instrument.