Using National Student Survey (NSS) Qualitative Data to Explore Disciplinary Cultures Around Assessment and Feedback

QA Data
Higher Education Policy

Jill R D MacKay

Kirsty Hughes

Hazel Marzetti

Neil Lent

Susan Rhind


March 19, 2019

Assessment and feedback are interrelated challenges for higher education, being perceived as key facets of the quality assurance of degrees, and yet commonly found to be sources of dissatisfac- tion for students. We performed a thematic analysis on the free- text comments of the National Student Survey for a large, Scottish, Russell Group university and found recurring themes of alienation versus belonging in how the students discussed assessment. We used Social Identity Theory to explore these themes and con- cluded that assessment can act as a barrier between staff and students, especially where students are not given effective feed- back. When students feel their assessment excludes them from a group (such as their discipline), they express dissatisfaction and frustration. This study adds to the growing body of work encoura- ging a dialogic approach to ensure students are able to make the best use of feedback and suggests it may also have the encoura- ging side-effect of improving student satisfaction