The Role of Teacher’s Written Formative Feedback on Students’ Critical Thinking

Abstract

In higher education formative feedback has positive effects when it facilitates the development of students’ reflection and self-assessment in learning (Nicol, Thomson, & Breslin, 2014). Nevertheless, an increasing pressure of workload on university teachers makes the design of formative feedback strategies more difficult to implement (Yorke, 2003). This study shows innovative ways for promoting written formative feedback in the context of higher education and for assessing its effectiveness. The investigation entails close collaboration with one Biology teacher of the University of Aveiro, in Portugal, in the teaching context of ‘Evolution’ during one semester (2012/2013). One of the assignments/challenges was to encourage 80 first-year Biology undergraduates to produce critical analysis of a journal article related to the topic of evolution (i.e., genetic diseases). The research approach is based on a critical social paradigm, assuming principles of action-research (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). Data were collected through naturalistic non-participant classroom observation and semi-structured interviews with the teacher and 10 selected students (conducted at the end of the semester). All written documents produced by participants were selected for analysis. Considering the nature of data, we mainly use content analysis (Bardin, 2000). Preliminary results show that teacher’s written comments increased opportunities for students to search for further information, to negotiate and take decisions within their group, to auto- and hetero-reflect before sending their critical analysis to the teacher. Group work also allowed the development of critical thinking, collaboration and argumentation. Further results will be presented and discussed in the paper.



Author Information
Helena Pedrosa-de-Jesus, Research Centre Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Cecília Guerra, Research Centre Didactics and Technology in Education of Trainers, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Aurora Moreira, Centre for Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra, Portugal
Mike Watts, Brunel University, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2014
Stream: Higher education

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