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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

MIND THE GAP: An investigation into developing forms of feedback that students can use to improve their learning and achievement

Osborne, Christine (2024) MIND THE GAP: An investigation into developing forms of feedback that students can use to improve their learning and achievement. Doctoral thesis, The University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The power of formative assessment feedback in raising student achievement has been the subject of discussion and debate among peer-reviewed researchers and world-renowned authors for many years. The consensus is that when conducted in ways which promote active learning, formative assessment feedback has the potential to impact significantly on student achievement for relatively little cost. There is no shortage of advice and guidance to teachers both newly qualified and more experienced, on the theory of formative assessment and how to put it into practice in classrooms. This is where the issue lies. Despite the plentiful range of educational books and research papers that tell teachers what to do, feedback is often a source of frustration for students and teachers alike. Frustrating because teachers generally spend a lot of time outside their contracted teaching hours marking student work only to find that students do not act upon the feedback offered to them by their tutors. Frustrating for the student, as they see no improvement or progress between the tasks, tests and assignments that they submit to their teacher for review. Formative assessment is proving to be more complex and trickier to get right in practice than might have been first thought. Simply telling teachers what to do is clearly not enough. Teachers need to be shown practical techniques for formative assessment that are not only useful for them but also ones that students are willing to actively engage with and act upon. Every classroom environment and every educational setting is different. Each setting has its own individual culture and unique set of students. A Student’s reaction to feedback will depend on several factors. For example, age, ethnicity, cultural background, gender, socio-economic group, attitude to learning, prior educational experiences, emotional well-being and perhaps many more. This small-scale, qualitative research study considers the problems faced by both students and teachers in one General Further Education college in a classroom of adolescents aged 16-19 years. The student research participants in this study comprise of 17 students studying for a Childcare and Education qualification over a two-year period. Most of the participants joined the college at age 16 from school following receiving their results in their final examinations. College is often seen as a less prestigious pathway to continuing education as the courses on offer generally have a lower entry requirement than school sixth forms where more academic subjects are offered. The 5 teachers involved in the study all deliver vocational qualifications across a variety of curriculum areas (Health and Social Care, Childcare and Education, Sport, Public Services, Art and Design). This research begins with the story of the students and teachers in the General Further Education College that forms the site of this study, for whom formative assessment is a puzzling phenomenon and therefore a cause for concern. This not least because of their desire to remove the frustrations associated with formative assessment, but also to create a collaborative classroom in which active learning is at the forefront of pedagogical practice. This thesis opens a space for the problem to be discussed openly and honestly in the context of a particular college environment. It seeks to find techniques to close the gap between the theory and practice of formative assessment that have the potential to address this issue by bringing together research from primary, secondary, further and higher education. The research philosophy adopted for this qualitative study is explained in detail in the thesis, providing an insight into the thinking behind the ontological position of constructivism linked with an epistemology of interpretivist. At the heart of this study is the stories of the lived experiences of the participants. The research is conducted by a sole insider researcher who is interacting regularly with the participants and therefore their position within the research is not that of a neutral observer which may raise concerns about the impact of the researchers’ own subjectivities on the research findings. To address these concerns an explanation of the reflective action taken by the researcher is explained within the thesis. To provide transparency the participants stories are recounted in this research using their own words. In hearing their words readers of this thesis can gain real insights into the emotions and feelings of the participants and discern for themselves if the conclusions and recommendations emerging from this study are an authentic and convincing reflection of the lived experiences of the teachers and students who participated in it and without whom this work would not have been possible. To further mitigate bias, the approach taken to the thematic analysis of the data shows clearly the steps taken by the researcher in analysing the data and demonstrates that this has been conducted ethically and rigorously.

PhD thesis Mind The Gap by Christine Osborne March 2024.pdf - Accepted Version

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Uncontrolled Keywords: Feedback; Formative assessment; Close the gap; Active learning
Depositing User: Delphine Doucet


Item ID: 17580

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Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2024 13:22
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2024 13:30


Author: Christine Osborne

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Education > Further Education

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