'It’d be useful, but I wouldn’t use it': barriers to university students’ feedback seeking and recipience

Naomi E. Winstone*, Robert A. Nash, James Rowntree, Michael Parker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For feedback to be effective, it must be used by the receiver. Prior research has outlined numerous reasons why students’ use of feedback is sometimes limited, but there has been little systematic exploration of these barriers. In 11 activity-oriented focus groups, 31 undergraduate Psychology students discussed how they use assessment feedback. The data revealed many barriers that inhibit use of feedback, ranging from students’ difficulties with decoding terminology, to their unwillingness to expend effort. Thematic analysis identified four underlying psychological processes: awareness, cognisance, agency, and volition. We argue that these processes should be considered when designing interventions to encourage students’ engagement with feedback. Whereas the barriers identified could all in principle be removed, we propose that doing so would typically require – or would at least benefit from – a sharing of responsibility between teacher and student. The data highlight the importance of training students to be proactive receivers of feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 2026-2041
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number11
Early online date18 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction
in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way


  • feedback
  • interventions
  • student engagement
  • proactivity
  • communication
  • focus groups


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