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How year 12 classical studies students experience, understand, and use written feedback

Megan Peterson and Eleanor Hawe

A qualitative approach was used to investigate Year 12 secondary school students’ experiences, understandings and uses of written teacher feedback in classical studies. Participants in this small-scale study were eight students from two schools in a large metropolitan city in New Zealand, all of whom were undertaking a Level 2, National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) course of study. Two complementary techniques were used to gather data: semistructured interviews with the students, and written teacher feedback on the work of these students. The ways in which the Year 12 students interpreted their experiences of written feedback in classical studies had a significant impact on how they saw their role in the feedback process and their understanding of the purpose(s) of feedback. Students at both schools saw feedback as fulfilling the purposes of correction and improvement, motivation and encouragement, and to a lesser extent the furthering of learning. These purposes, however, contributed to a greater, overarching purpose—attaining desired levels of achievement in NCEA assessments and examinations. The feedback process was interpreted by the Year 12s as a one-way activity whereby their teachers told them what needed correction or improvement in their essays and how to effect necessary changes. The provision of written feedback was considered part of a teacher’s professional responsibility, while students’ role was to carry out suggestions and directives contained in feedback. It is concluded that the students involved in this study had a relatively impoverished perception of the purpose(s) of written feedback, a restricted understanding of their role in the feedback process, and little sense of themselves as active, autonomous learners.

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