A quest for helpful feedback to programming coursework

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2011 National Student Survey (NSS) revealed that 40% of full-time students in England do not think that the feedback on their work has been helpful, even though 66% of these students agreed that the feedback was detailed and 62% of them agreed that the feedback has been prompt. Detailed feedback that is not considered helpful by students means a waste of tutors' time while students continue to struggle with their learning.
What do students consider as helpful feedback? What are the qualities of helpful feedback? What are the preferred forms of feedback? How should tutors write feedback so that students will find it helpful? Can ICT help to improve the quality of feedback?
In our ongoing search for answers to the above questions, we have trialled the use of a novel online application (eCAF) to assess programming coursework from engineering, mathematics and computing students and, through a survey, have collected their views on the feedback received. The survey reveals that most students prefer electronic feedback as given through eCAF, with verbal feedback ranked second and hand-written feedback ranked even lower. The survey also indicates that the feedback from some tutors is considered more helpful than others. We report on the detailed findings of the survey. By comparing the kinds of feedback given by each tutor who took part in the trial, we explore ways to improve the helpfulness of feedback on programming coursework in a bid to promote learning amongst engineering students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalEngineering Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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