Second-class citizens? Using Social Identity Theory to explore students’ experiences of assessment and feedback

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Abstract / Description of output

This presentation is based on thematic analysis of all National Student Survey (NSS) free-text responses in one year (2016) at a Scottish pre-1992 university. The initial driver was to use an under-used data source (relative to the fixed response data from NSS) and to attempt to gain insights into the lived experience of students at the end of their undergraduate degree. What we found were accounts of experiences that could easily be understood in terms of an, ‘us versus them’ dynamic (students versus staff). We used Social Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) to explore these themes and concluded that assessment can act as a barrier between staff and students, especially where students are not given effective feedback. Where respondents seemed to feel that assessment practices were excluding them from a group to which both students and staff could belong (such as their discipline), they expressed dissatisfaction and frustration in ways that suggested assessment and feedback was ‘done’ to them rather than something they took part in.

The feeling of ‘us versus them’ fits poorly with the evidence that assessment and feedback are best viewed as dialogic processes enabling students to be independent, self-regulated learners (eg: Nicol

This study adds to the growing body of work encouraging a dialogic approach to ensure students are able to make the best use of feedback, and suggests it may also have the encouraging side-effect of improving student satisfaction through contributing a sense of belong to a new discipline or programme community. We argue that the approach taken to the NSS data can be applied more widely in terms of students’ experience of assessment and feedback and provide insights into how the wider programme / course context can be improved to enhance dialogic feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
Event7th International Assessment in Higher Education Conference - MacDonald Hotel, Manchester, Manchester
Duration: 26 Jun 201927 Jun 2019


Conference7th International Assessment in Higher Education Conference
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