Students’ and tutors’ perceptions of feedback on academic essays in an open and distance learning context

Jack Matlou Chokwe


Feedback is the most important aspect of the learning and teaching process. Through feedback, tutors/lecturers provide an important intervention in teaching as students would always like to know where they did right or wrong in their written assessed work. Without feedback, learning is not complete. This article reports on the results of a major study on academic writing of first year English Second Language university students in open and distance learning context. The study probed both students’ perceptions and tutors’ practices in the provision of giving feedback. Marked students’ assignments were evaluated using document analysis method and interviews were held with students and tutors. The findings show that feedback provided to students is not always sufficient and therefore denying students’ opportunities to learn effectively as they would not know their weak and strong points.


Open and distance learning; English for Academic Purposes; feedback; talkback; feeding forward; tutor-markers

Full Text:



Ary, D.; Jacobs L. C. & Razavieh, A. (2002). Introduction to Research in Education (6th ed.). Stamford, CT: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Bailey, R. (2009). Undergraduate students’ perceptions of the role and utility of written assessment feedback. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 1, 1-14. Retrieved from

Bell, J. (2005). Doing your Research Project: A guide for first time researchers in education, health and social science (4th ed). London: Open University Press.

Bharuthram, S. & McKenna, S. (2006). A writer-respondent intervention as a means of developing academic literacy. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4), 495-507.

Blair, A. & McGinty, S. (2013). Feedback-dialogues: exploring the student perspective. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(4), 466-476.

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (2013). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), 698-712.

Boughey, C. (1997). Learning to write by writing to learn: a group-work approach, ELT Journal, 51(2), 126-134.

Cabral, A. P. & Tavares, J. (2002). Reading and writing skills in higher education: lecturers’ opinions and perceptions. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 29(1), 52-72.

Curry, M. (2006). Skills, Access and ‘Basic writing’: a Community College Case Study from the United States. In L. Ganobscik-Williams (ed.). Teaching academic writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, practices and models (pp. 74-100). Universities into the 21st Century. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave.

Dowden, T.; Pittaway, S.; Yost, H. & McCarthy, R. (2013). Students’ perceptions of written feedback in teacher: education: ideally feedback is a continuing two-way communication that encourages progress. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(3), 349-362.

Ellis, R. A.; Taylor, C. E. & Drury, H. (2005). Evaluating writing instruction through an investigation of students’ experiences of learning through writing. Instructional Science, 33(1), 49-71.

Ferris, D. (2008). Feedback: Issues and Options. In F. Friedrich. (Ed). Teaching Academic Writing (pp. 120-135). London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Fossey, E.; Harvey, C.; Mc Dermott, F. & Davidson, L. (2002). Understanding and evaluating qualitative research. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36(6), 717-732.

Fregeau, L. A. (1999). Preparing ESL students for college writing: Two case studies The Internet TESL Journal, 5(10). Retrieved from

Gambell, T. J. (1991). University Students’ Self-Perceptions of Writing. Canadian Journal of Education, 16(4), 420-433.

Granville, S. & Dison, L. (2009). Making connections through reflection: writing and feedback in an academic literacy programme. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27(1), 53-63.

Harris, W. H. (1977). Teacher Response to Student Writing: A Study of the Response Patterns of High School English Teachers to Determine the Basis for Teacher Judgement of Student Writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 11(2), 175-185.

Higgins, R.; Hartley, P. & Skelton, A. (2001) Getting the Message Across: The problem of communicating assessment feedback, Teaching in Higher Education, 6(2), 269-274.

Jackson, L.; Meyer, W. & Parkinson, J. (2006). A study of the writing tasks and reading assigned to undergraduate science students at a South African University. English for Specific Purposes, 25(3), 260-281.

Kobayashi, H. & Rinnert, C. (2002). High school student perceptions of first language literacy instruction: Implications for second language writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 11, 91-116.

Krause, K. L. (2001). The university essay writing experience: A pathway for academic integration. Higher Education Research and Development, 20(2), 147-168.

Lea, M. R. (2008). Academic literacies in theory and practice. In B. V. Street & N. H. Hornberger (eds.). Encyclopedia of Language and Education. Vol. II. Literacy (pp. 227-238). Springer.

Lea, M. R. & Street, B. V. (1998). Student Writing in Higher Education: an academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 157-172.

Li, X. (2007). Identities and Beliefs in ESL Writing: From Product to Processes. TESL Canada Journal, 25(1), 41-64. Retrieved from

Lillis, T. (2001). Student Writing: Access, Regulation, Desire. New York: Routledge.

Lillis, T. M. (2006). 'Academic Literacies' Research as Pedagogy: Dialogues of Participation. In L. Ganobscik-Williams (ed.). Teaching academic writing in UK Higher Education: Theories, practices and models. Universities into the 21st Century. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave.

Lloyd, M. (2007). Developing academic writing skills: the PROCESS framework. Nursing Standard, 21(40), 50-56.

Marshall, C. & Rossman, G. B. (2006). Designing Qualitative Research (4th ed). California: Sage Publications.

Neuman, W.L. (2006). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. (6th edition). Boston: Pearson Education.

Price, M.; Handley, K.; Millar, J. & O’Donovan, B. (2010). Feedback: all that effort, but what is the effect? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), 277-289.

Radecki, P. M. & Swales, J. M. (1988). ESL student reaction to written comments on their written work. System, 16(3), 355-365.

Saito, H. (1994). Teachers’ Practices and Students’ Preferences for Feedback on Second Language Writing: A Case Study of Adult ESL Learners. TESL Canada Journal, 11(2), 46-68. Retrieved from

Saddler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 535-550.

Spencer, B. (2007). Towards greater equality: Power and role relations involved in response to student writing. Language Matters: Studies in the Languages of Africa, 38(2), 299-315.

Vithal, R. & Jansen, J. (2005). Designing your first Research Proposal. Cape Town: Juta & Co Ltd.

Weaver, M. (2006). Do students value feedback? Student perceptions of tutor written responses, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(3), 379-394.

Zhu, W. (2004). Faculty views on the importance of writing, the nature of academic writing, and teaching and responding to writing in the disciplines. Journal of Second Language Writing, 13(1), 29-48.



  • There are currently no refbacks.