Influences of form of GradeMark feedback on Student Engagement

“Speech Bubbles” by Jordan. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
Speech Bubbles” by Jordan. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND


Use of Turnitin to provide digital feedback has grown rapidly in CCCU in recent years with 52% of 133,000 submissions to Turnitin receiving feedback during 2015/16 compared with 8% of 96,034 submissions in 2012/13. While we know this has helped to improve turnaround times, and our students value the flexibility of receiving feedback online, there has been little investigation of any deeper impact on our students’ learning – particularly use of feedback for development. Whereas the literature indicates associations between use of similar digital feedback tools with greater motivation and understanding of how to improve compared with to non-digital feedback, why this may be is often not clear. One possible factor is how the nature of digital feedback influences learners’ engagement with their feedback.

Understanding how students engage with Turnitin feedback

With the aim of informing markers’ action research into their use of digital feedback, Simon Starr interviewed CCCU students about their experience of the various ways Turnitin feedback can be presented for his MSc in Digital Education dissertation study. It was found that the choice presentation can make a substantive difference to the students’ use of their feedback. Specifically, it is concluded that on-script ‘Bubble Comments’ and off-script ‘Voice Comments’ may both positively influence how valued learners feel and encourage and support their use of feedback for development while on-script ‘QuickMark Comments’ and off-script ‘General Comments’ and ‘Rubrics’ may negatively influence same. These influences arise from how these different choices for presenting feedback in Turnitin affect personalisation, specificity and clarity of meaning of feedback, learners’ emotional connection with their marker and by simply grabbing their attention.

A summary of the research, including more detailed findings, is contained in the attached report: ‘An exploratory investigation into influences of form of GradeMark digital feedback on learners’ engagement with their feedback‘.

Why does this matter?

The NSS continues to highlight assessment and feedback as an area for ongoing enhancement, now incorporated as a metric for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Where the Digital Learning Thresholds (DLT) [internal CCCU link only] include an expectation for digital feedback as standard in future, it is important to ensure that such feedback is not only timely but engages encourages and supports our learners to improve.

What next?

It is recommended that, through their own action research, markers using GradeMark explore the use of Bubble Comments and Voice Comments as alternatives to General Comments, and ‘Grading Forms’ as an alternative to Rubrics. Specific considerations in doing so are suggested in the report. It is also recommended that CCCU considers strategies for helping learners apply GradeMark feedback to future work, including the possibility of re-writing generic assessment criteria in more ‘student friendly’ language and investigating improvements to accessing GradeMark via mobile devices.

To discuss ways of improving your students’ engagement with Turnitin feedback, contact your friendly learning technologist. See also our new section on technology-enhanced feedback [internal CCCU link only] for ways technology can support various aims for enhancing assessment, including improving feedback. Tools you can use are suggested along with links to examples, further reading and other resources and an ‘index’ of the tools we have available in the University.