|Teaching and Learning Forum 2002 [ Proceedings Contents ]|
It is believed that lecturers' feedback on students' assignments can help students in their learning process. Nevertheless, there seems to be a tendency for students to ignore the feedback given by their lecturer, which results in the repetition of mistakes in their next assignments. This paper aims to find out the reasons behind students' lack of response to lecturers' feedback which results in repetitive mistakes.
The study was conducted to lecturers and students of English Department, Foundation Studies Program at Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus, Malaysia. Questionnaires were distributed to lecturers to list the kinds of feedback they gave to students and its effects on students' next assignments. A different type of questionnaires was distributed to students to identify the importance of feedback to them and what types of feedback that they think beneficial to improve their learning process. Furthermore, individual interviews or discussions on the topic were also conducted to some of the lecturers and students to further discuss the data.
The result of the survey indicated that the types of feedback that the students received are unlikely to be the cause of students' ignorance. It is the students' perception and goals of learning that were the main reasons why they paid so little attention to the feedback. Having identified the problems, this paper offers a few practical suggestions that can benefit both the lecturers and students in addressing the problem.
The assessments discussed in this paper have the second function, which is to identify students' gaps in knowledge. Lecturers usually try to identify these gaps by providing feedback to students' assessments. Brown, Race, & Smith (1996, p.30) claim that "assessment is 'engine that drives learning'", therefore, the role of feedback is crucial to achieve the maximum results. Nevertheless, as Chalmers & Fuller (1996, p. 104) point out, students do not always make the most of the feedback they receive. As a result, they don't use it as a source to improve the level of their work as they keep on making the same mistakes that they made in their previous works.
This study was conducted for the English students of Foundation Studies Program (FSP), Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus, Malaysia. It intends to find out the reasons behind students' lack of response to lecturers' feedback which results in repetitive mistakes, and tries to offer suggestions on how to improve this condition.
|B & D/ Engineering||38|
|2, 5, 6, & 7/ Commerce||58|
Questionnaires were also distributed to all 10 English lecturers teaching English subjects for the second semester students at the FSP. Some of them taught both Engineering and Commerce groups, while others only taught either Engineering group or Commerce group.
With regard to written feedback, 76% of student-respondents preferred to have feedback which identify the exact errors and also provide suggestions, while only a few of them (17.7%) preferred to have a general comment. Similarly, the lecturers also preferred to identify specific errors as well as give suggestions. The student-respondents claimed that sometimes the general comment does not work effectively as often they do not know what the lecturers are asking for or trying to explain. By identifying detailed errors and providing suggestions they will be able to figure out what their mistakes are and to improve the quality of their assessments in the future. The lecturers also provided similar reasons, and, in addition, they further explained that general comment are normally only given for the students' final works. This finding rules out the possibility that the reason why students ignored the feedback is because it does not match their expectation and preferences.
Despite their eagerness to see the feedback, students' attention is focused on how to revise the particular assessment. This is also supported by their response earlier that they preferred to have detailed identification on the mistakes or errors that they have in their papers and the suggestions. Interestingly, even though the students were given detailed feedback, they still couldn't fully identify their strengths as well as weaknesses. It can be seen from one of their responses where they (43.8%) claimed that their main weaknesses are (a) grammar and (b) essay format, but the lecturers (100%) strongly believed that their main weaknesses are (a) grammar and (b) content. This is perhaps best explained by the students' attitude towards the given feedback. After the students receive their written feedback, they (59.4%) claimed that they read through the written feedback and ask clarification from the lecturer. However, during the informal discussions, some lecturers argued that only a few students approach them to ask for further clarification while the rest of the class does not make any attempts to approach them at all.
Furthermore, even though a majority (66.7%) of students stated that they kept the assessments and used them for future reference, but when further clarification on 'why they keep repeating the same mistakes' was asked, some of them simply said that they didn't realise, they forgot about it, or they didn't think it was a mistake. These explanations are in agreement with the responses provided by other students (15.6%) where they admitted that after they go home they put the assignment neatly in a folder and never look at it again or throw it away because they feel they don't need it any more. During the interviews, these students further elaborated that, as each assignment or task was treated differently, past assessment seemed irrelevant to them.
In addition, the student-respondents also revealed that sometimes they (47.9%) realise that they keep repeating the same mistakes from one assessment to another. This view slightly contradicts with the lecturers' where they (100%) strongly pointed out that students always relate their mistakes from one assessment to another.
In order to achieve an objective that can satisfy both sides, a consensus is necessary. First of all, lecturers need to acknowledge that students have goals of their own that are different from the lecturers'. Then, the lecturers need to take the efforts to let the students know about the lecturers' goals and the reasons why the students need to achieve those goals. As a result, the feedback given on assessments should be structured in such a way that students need to think about their mistakes, do something about them and actually get grades for the efforts of identifying their own strengths and weakness and remedying them. All these must be communicated explicitly to the students at the beginning and throughout the semester so that the students are aware of what kind of learning strategies are needed to get grades and pass the subject satisfactorily. By doing this, the students obtain their goals of getting grades and pass the course subject and they achieve them by going through the process of learning that the lecturers expect them to do.
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|Authors: Oktavia Nurtjahja, Lecturer, Foundation Studies Program/English, Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. firstname.lastname@example.org
Agustina Lahur, Lecturer, Foundation Studies Program/English, Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus.
Please cite as: Nurtjahja, O. and Lahur, A. (2002). Students' responses to lecturers' feedback: Problems and suggestions. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/nurtjahja.html