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EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDENTS PERCEPTIONS OF WRITTEN FEEDBACK ON THEIR UNDERGRADUATE ESSAYS

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Title: EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDENTS PERCEPTIONS OF WRITTEN FEEDBACK ON THEIR UNDERGRADUATE ESSAYS


1
EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDENTS PERCEPTIONS OF WRITTEN
FEEDBACK ON THEIR UNDERGRADUATE ESSAYS
  • A research project undertaken at the de Lissa
    Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies
  • By
  • Victoria Whitington Anne Glover

2
Aims of the study
  • The aims were
  • to investigate whether the early childhood
    students at the University of SA actually read
    lecturer feedback and, if they did, what they
    found helpful and not helpful to their learning,
    and
  • to investigate how lecturer time could be most
    effectively used in marking students essays.

3
Research questions
  • 1. In what ways do Early Childhood students
    perceive lecturer feedback on their essays to be
    effective in enhancing their learning?
  • 2. In what ways do students in this study
    perceive lecturer feedback to be ineffective in
    enhancing their learning?

4
Participants
  • Participants were at the end of their second
    year, and the beginning of their third year of
    study in a four year undergraduate early
    childhood program. Initially, fifty students from
    two second year courses were anonymously surveyed
    by attaching a questionnaire to a returned final
    essay.
  • There was a response rate of twenty. In the
    second part of the study, nineteen volunteer
    students (17 females and 2 males) from the same
    cohort, but not necessarily the same students who
    responded to the survey, participated in one of
    four focus groups held early in the following
    academic year.

5
Measures
  • Qualitative, interpretive research methods were
    used. Two measures were employed.
  • The first measure was an anonymous two page
    questionnaire.
  • The second measure comprised a series of
    questions for informal, in depth discussion in
    four focus groups.

6
Analysis and Results
  • Three categories emerged from reading of the
    data
  • Reading of the feedback
  • Type of feedback found to be most and least
    useful
  • The learning environment

7
ResultsReading of the feedback
  • Contrary to expectations, survey and focus group
    participants unanimously reported that they did
    read lecturer feedback. Moreover, students
    reported that they read feedback thoroughly.
  • When reading lecturer feedback, most students
    said that first they turned to the back of the
    assignment to see the final grade and to look for
    summative comments. They read any comments, then
    looked back through their papers for detailed
    comments on each page.

8
Results Factors relevant to feedback found to be
most and least useful
  • Amount of feedback
  • Balancing positive and negative feedback
  • Uniformity and consistency in marking
  • External markers
  • Clarity and legibility
  • Applicability of feedback within a course or
    across courses

9
Results The learning environment
  • Students made comments about the learning
    environment in three general areas
  • lecturer approachability,
  • the role of the first assignment in a course in
    informing about the second, and,
  • the effect of lecturer feedback on their
    motivation in the course and the overall program.

10
Discussion
  • A major finding of the present study was that
    early childhood students did read the feedback
    that lecturers wrote on their essays, rather than
    simply looking for the grade and discarding the
    rest. This finding is contrary to previous UK
    findings (Eccelstone 1999, and Wojtas, 1998 cited
    in Higgins and Skelton, 2001).
  • Early childhood students participating in the
    present study were found to be interested in
    conducting a dialogue with their lecturers,
    collaborating in the learning process rather than
    simply receiving judgements.

11
Discussion (continued)
  • The second major finding was that early
    childhood students perceived lecturer feedback on
    their essays to be a tool that both enhanced and
    detracted from their learning in a number of
    ways.
  • Students said that the feedback they received
    was appropriate in its level of detail and
    specificity. They were generally satisfied with
    the quality and quantity of feedback.

12
Discussion (continued)
  • Feedback which enhances students learning has
    the following qualities
  • It conveys information that is understood by
    students - students reported that they understood
    lecturer feedback, and most were satisfied with
    its level of detail and specificity in the two
    courses surveyed.
  • It specifies clearly what needs to be done to
    improve - students were pleased with feedback
    when it made clear how they could have improved
    their paper, and dissatisfied when the feedback
    did not include such information.

13
Discussion (continued)
  • 3. It should convey specific strategies for
    improvement which can be used beyond the
    boundaries of a specific assignment - students
    indicated that they not only read the feedback
    but also used it in their forthcoming
    assignments, indicating that generally feedback
    was applicable beyond the assignment on which it
    was written.
  • 4. It needs to facilitate further learning and
    the motivation to improve Students were
    concerned about an unevenness in marking within
    and across courses which led to an overall
    feeling that some students were advantaged and
    others disadvantaged. In other words, students
    considered that the process of marking was not as
    fair as it could be, thus affecting overall
    motivation in the course.

14
Limitations
  • Participants in the focus groups were
    self-selected rather than randomly chosen
  • The study recognised two approaches to written
    assessment gate-keeping and educative. It
    ignored a third perspective academic literacy

15
Conclusion
  • The present study found that for this cohort,
    the ideal feedback was written communication from
    the marker that provided not just comments for an
    isolated assignment, identifying errors and
    faults, but was detailed and explanatory and
    which could be used beyond the confines of the
    particular assignment. Students wanted feedback
    which facilitated their learning and which
    contributed positively to their general academic
    progress.
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