Bridging the Gap: the construction of shared meaning through feedback


A collaborative project across Surrey (June 2017- June 2018) funded by SEDA

Student experience surveys have consistently identified feedback as the most problematic aspect of the higher education experience (Evans, 2012). Yet the associated research has been described as ‘limited and its utility criticized’, generally focusing on espoused rather than actual experiences (Orrell, 2008: 253; Li and De Luca, 2014). In addition there is little research that focuses on the interaction between marker and student in interpreting the same piece of feedback and the impact on understanding (for both markers and students). It is anticipated that this study will address these issues both in terms of the development of research methods not widely used in the social sciences (think aloud protocol and joint interviews), and the potential for illuminating whether and how shared meaning is constructed through feedback. This will be achieved through investigating interaction in written and verbal form between marker and student, by exploring the messages conveyed by markers and received by their students, and how shared meaning can be co-constructed through interaction.

Delandshere (2001: 121) describes feedback as ‘a private matter between the ‘judge’…and individual students’. The proposed study will focus on this ‘private’ interaction between three markers (one from each Faculty) and three of their students (n = 9), as a means of illuminating the ‘decentralised, subject-specific decision-making processes’ (Bloxham et al., 2011: 655) that underpin the construction of meaning through written feedback. The study will generate three sources of qualitative data, allowing for between-methods triangulation and, in order to allow the data to speak for itself, will utilize an open thematic qualitative analysis. The findings will serve not only to address a gap in the literature, but also to facilitate the development of participant understanding of the feedback.


Project Leader:

Dr Emma Medland

University of Surrey, Department of Higher Education


Project Partners:

Dr Alexandra Grandison

University of Surrey, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Department of Psychology

Dr Christine Rivers

University of Surrey, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Business School

Dr Fiona Tomkinson

University of Surrey, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Department of Mathematics