Curriculum Design: Assessment & feedback

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Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

Evidence of a disparity between staff and students perception of feedback

Kirsti Hill (School of Pharmacy), Giuseppe Manotvani (School of Pharmacy), Deborah Merrick (School of Biomedical Sciences).

Effective feedback is an important factor influencing student achievement that can have beneficial effects on learning and motivation. Recent National Student Survey (NSS) reports have uncovered growing student dissatisfaction with feedback received in higher education. Reports in the literature hypothesise that the disparity between student perceptions of the feedback they wish for/receive and academics’ understanding of feedback, may lie at the heart of this dissatisfaction. The present work aimed to address this issue by exploring student and staff perception of feedback in the Schools of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy.


Focus groups (2x10 students) were used to gauge student perceptions of the feedback they receive. Issues raised were used to generate a questionnaire that was disseminated to staff and students in both Schools. Questionnaires required students/staff to give their understanding of the feedback they receive/give. Participants were asked to rank in order of importance the types of feedback they feel are most beneficial and to comment on how they believe feedback could be improved.


  • 26 responses from staff (36% response rate) and 156 from students (51% response rate) were obtained.
  • In general, staff perceive the feedback they provide on examination performance and assessed work more positively than students do. The ability to deliver individualised verbal feedback and the timeliness of feedback given/received being two significant examples of this disparity. 91% of staff agreed that they provide individualised verbal feedback, whilst only 53% of students recognise receiving such feedback. Additionally, 78% of staff believe they provide feedback in a timely manner whilst only half of the students (49%) are in agreement. Moreover, 52% of students feel that the feedback they receive is not personalised, which again contrasted with staffs’ views on this matter.
  • Staff and students are in agreement about the types of feedback students find most useful during their undergraduate studies; with individual written and verbal comments being ranked top and feedback provided via WebCT and group verbal comments being the feedback method both groups considered least useful. Staff and students are also in agreement that the level of feedback delivered between modules is extremely variable (69% and 80% respectively).


This study indicates that there is disparity in the way staff and students perceive certain aspects of feedback. Interestingly, some types of feedback that students find valuable are already available to them, suggesting that from a staff perspective efforts may be best aimed at increasing the timeliness, personalisation and reducing inter-module variability of feedback. To this end, a set of recommendations has been formulated for dissemination in both Schools. We hope these recommendations will be incorporated into feedback strategy and influence schemes already operating within the schools and help clarify feedback expectations for staff and students. The extent to which such differences in perception can account for the degree of dissatisfaction students expressed towards the feedback they receive will require further investigation.

Assessment & feedback resource 17 of 40
Paper presented at the University's Seventeenth Learning & Teaching conference (September, 2010).
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