A review on the role of emotion in feedback processes in higher education and strategies promoting desirable affective engagement.

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This review paper looks at the role of the higher education students’ affective state when receiving or responding to feedback. Emotion or affect plays an important role when seeking, giving, receiving and using feedback (Molloy et al, 2012). Assessment feedback is a significant aspect of the learning experience in higher education that impacts students’ achievement and enables them to become independent learners (Ryan & Handerson, 2018). Studies suggest that the higher education sector struggles to fully understand the purpose of feedback and provide it in an appropriate way (Carless et al. 2011). For instance, in their analysis of the results of national surveys conducted in the UK on student satisfaction in higher education, Bell and Brooks (2017) state that assessment and feedback are a few of the areas that drive student satisfaction the least. Although there has been extensive work looking at feedback practices in different higher education contexts , little attention has been given to the role that emotion plays in the way the learner will interpret and receive feedback. Effective supervision, for instance, encompasses not only a good academic match in terms of experience and subject expertise, but also a match in supervision style that can help students achieve their full potential (Hockley 1996).
Effective and high quality feedback is a key element of quality teaching in higher education students and is highly valued by students (Biggs & Tang, 2007). Through formative feedback the instructors offer guidance and support on students’ progress during the term, while summative feedback typically includes a grading process and is typically carried out at the end of a course (Rowe et al, 2014). In higher education settings feedback can be delivered through a written report or a grade or verbally in a group or one-to-one setting (e.g., during a workshop or a supervision). Research shows that feedback serves a variety of functions for students including the clarification of instructional expectations and processes, praise, demonstration of care and interest in students, wellbeing and academic progress and opportunity for interpersonal context between instructors and students (Rowe, 2011). This review paper explores the role of emotion in feedback processes and strategies that can promote affective engagement in feedback processes for higher education students.
Automated searches were undertaken during April and May 2022 using Google Scholar, the Arts & Humanities Index (Web of Science) and British Education Index. After relevant sources were found, snowballing was also used to identify further sources on the topic. The titles and abstracts of the identified sources were screened for relevance and stored. They were later categorised to two main areas: (1) papers looking at the emotional responses higher education students experience when exposed to feedback and (2) papers suggesting or testing strategies that can promote desirable affective engagement in feedback processes.
Multiple studies confirm that higher education students experience a range of positive and negative emotions when they receive feedback (e.g., Doloriert et al, 2012). Different factors can affect how students will respond to feedback (Ryan & Handerson, 2018). Some of the identified factors are international student status, different grade expectations and emotional maturity (Pitt & Norton, 2017; Ryan & Hnaderson, 2018).
A range of pedagogical strategies to manage emotional responses to feedback and suggestions for feedback literacy training have been identified and categorised. More specifically, effective emotional responses include but are not limited to reflection on the feedback received, experience of positive emotions in relation to the feedback received, and engagement with and understanding of feedback. The findings are grouped in two categories: (1) pedagogical strategies and (2) feedback literacy training. The first category includes the different pedagogical strategies proposed or empirically tested before the feedback is delivered, during the delivery and after the feedback is delivered. The second category addresses the different suggestions found in the literature regarding feedback literacy training for instructors and students.
This paper has reviewed the literature on the role of emotion in feedback processes in higher education and the strategies that can facilitate students’ desirable affective engagement with feedback. It has been found that students can experience a range of positive and negative emotions in response to feedback that can me mediated by different factors such as grade expectations and emotional maturity. A range of pedagogical strategies to manage emotional responses to feedback and suggestions for feedback literacy training have been identified and categorised. More research is needed to explore the efficacy of these strategies and their potential to help students engage with feedback in a positive and productive way.
Bell, A. R., & Brooks, C. (2018). What makes students satisfied? A discussion and analysis of the UK’s national student survey. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(8), 1118-1142.
Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university. Berkshire: McGraw Hill— Society for Research into Higher Education.
Doloriert, C., Sambrook, S., & Stewart, J. (2012). Power and emotion in doctoral supervision: Implications for HRD. European Journal of Training and Development.36(7), 732-750.
Hockey, J. (1996), “Strategies and tactics in the supervision of UL Social Science PhD students”, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 481-500.
Molloy, E., Borrell-Carrio, F., & Epstein, R. (2012). The impact of emotions in feedback. In Feedback in higher and professional education (pp. 60-81). Routledge.
Pitt, E., & Norton, L. (2017). ‘Now that’s the feedback I want! ‘Students’ reactions to feedback on graded work and what they do with it. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(4), 499-516.
Rowe, A. (2011). The personal dimension in teaching: why students value feedback. International Journal of Educational Management, 25(4), 343–360. doi:10.1108/09513541111136630.
Rowe, A. D., Fitness, J., & Wood, L. N. (2014). The role and functionality of emotions in feedback at university: A qualitative study. The Australian Educational Researcher, 41(3), 283-309.
Ryan, T., & Henderson, M. (2018). Feeling feedback: students’ emotional responses to educator feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(6), 880-892.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Annual Conference of the British Education Research Association (BERA)

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


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