Can relational feed-forward enhance students' cognitive and affective responses to assessment?

Jennifer Hill, Kathy Berlin, Julia Choate, Lisa Cravens-Brown, Lisa McKendrick-Calder, Susan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment feedback should be an integral part of learning in higher education, but students can find this process emotionally and cognitively challenging. Instructors need to consider how to manage students' responses to feedback so that students feel capable of improving their work and maintaining their wellbeing. In this paper, we examine the role of instructor-student relational feed-forward, enacted as a dialogue relating to ongoing assessment, in dissipating student anxiety, enabling productive learning attitudes and behaviours, and supporting wellbeing. We undertook qualitative data collection within two undergraduate teaching units that were adopting a relational feed-forward intervention over the 2019-2020 academic year. Student responses were elicited via small group, semi-structured interviews and personal reflective diaries, and were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. The results demonstrate that relational feed-forward promotes many elements of student feedback literacy, such as appreciating the purpose and value of feedback, judging work against a rubric, exercising volition and agency to act, and managing affect. Students were keen for instructors to help them manage their emotions related to assessment, believing this would promote their wellbeing. We conclude by exploring academic strategies and pedagogies that position relational instructor feed-forward as an act of care, and we summarize the key characteristics of emotionally resonant relational feed-forward meetings.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalTeaching & Learning Inquiry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2021


  • Assessment feedback
  • Emotional resonance
  • Relational feed-forward
  • Thematic analysis
  • Wellbeing

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