Supporting learners’ agentic engagement with feedback: a systematic review and a taxonomy of recipience processes

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much has been written in the educational psychology literature about effective feedback and how to deliver it. However, it is equally important to understand how learners actively receive, engage with, and implement feedback. This article reports a systematic review of the research evidence pertaining to this issue. Through an analysis of 195 outputs published between 1985 and early 2014, we identified various factors that have been proposed to influence the likelihood of feedback being used. Furthermore, we identified diverse interventions with the common aim of supporting and promoting learners' agentic engagement with feedback processes. We outline the various components used in these interventions, and the reports of their successes and limitations. Moreover we propose a novel taxonomy of four recipience processes targeted by these interventions. This review and taxonomy provide a theoretical basis for conceptualizing learners' responsibility within feedback dialogues and for guiding the strategic design and evaluation of interventions. Receiving feedback on one's skills and understanding is an invaluable part of the learning process, benefiting learners far more than does simply receiving praise or punishment (Black & Wiliam, 1998 Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5, 7–74. doi:10.1080/0969595980050102[Taylor & Francis Online]; Hattie & Timperley, 2007 Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81–112. doi:10.3102/003465430298487[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]). Inevitably, the benefits of receiving feedback are not uniform across all circumstances, and so it is imperative to understand how these gains can be maximized. There is increasing consensus that a critical determinant of feedback effectiveness is the quality of learners' engagement with, and use of, the feedback they receive. However, studies investigating this engagement are underrepresented in academic research (Bounds et al., 2013 Bounds, R., Bush, C., Aghera, A., Rodriguez, N., Stansfield, R. B., & Santeen, S. A. (2013). Emergency medicine residents' self-assessments play a critical role when receiving feedback. Academic Emergency Medicine, 20, 1055–1061. doi:10.1111/acem.12231[CrossRef], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®]), which leaves a “blind spot” in our understanding (Burke, 2009 Burke, D. (2009). Strategies for using feedback students bring to higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34, 41–50. doi:10.1080/02602930801895711[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]). With this blind spot in mind, the present work sets out to systematically map the research literature concerning learners' proactive recipience of feedback. We use the term “proactive recipience” here to connote a state or activity of engaging actively with feedback processes, thus emphasizing the fundamental contribution and responsibility of the learner (Winstone, Nash, Rowntree, & Parker, in press Winstone, N. E., Nash, R. A., Rowntree, J., & Parker, M. (in press). ‘It'd be useful, but I wouldn't use it’: Barriers to university students' feedback seeking and recipience. Studies in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1130032[Taylor & Francis Online]). In other words, just as Reeve and Tseng (2011 Reeve, J., & Tseng, M. (2011). Agency as a fourth aspect of student engagement during learning activities. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36, 257–267. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2011.05.002[CrossRef], [Web of Science ®]) defined “agentic engagement” as a “student's constructive contribution into the flow of the instruction they receive” (p. 258), likewise proactive recipience is a form of agentic engagement that involves the learner sharing responsibility for making feedback processes effective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Psychologist
Issue number1
Early online date8 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Psychiatry Research on 08/09/16, available online:


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