Understanding student and staff perceptions of feedback in architecture.
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HOURIGAN, N. and MCCLEAN, D., 2011. Understanding student and staff perceptions of feedback in architecture [online]. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/disciplines/built-environment/Built_Env_Feedback_Architecture [Accessed 15 July 2014]
This report presents the results of a collaborative project between Queens University, Belfast and the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and builds on a dialogue initiated during Session 2009-10 through which course guidance and feedback received by students was identified as an area requiring deeper understanding in order to enhance current practice. As Ramsden (1992) succinctly stated, the importance of effective feedback mechanisms is pivotal to a quality learning experience. Despite this, Yorke and Longden’s Phase 1 Report on the First Year Experience identified student satisfaction with feedback as a generic weakness in UK Higher Education. However, in the field of architecture, in which many educators would consider the learning process to be discursive and feedback-rich, it is perhaps surprising that student perceptions of feedback are poor compared to some other subjects. In the UK this phenomenon has been underlined by the results of the National Student Survey (NSS), in which the subject has consistently returned low returns in this aspect of the student experience (Roberts, 2010). NSS statistics suggest that more requires to be understood about what students understand about the feedback process(es), and the role that they and their peers play in an effective feedback process. Roberts and Yoell’s (2009) categorisation of student propensities for reflection within the learning process is of interest, particularly as feedback is intended as a process aimed at stimulating and promoting reflective activity through the engagement of the individual. Through feedback, the role of the tutor in the stimulus of reflection is critical. Equally, effective learning relies on the sustained motivation of the student and this, as von Glaserfeld (1989) noted, is strongly dependent on student perceptions of, and confidence in, their ability to learn. In the case of architecture this derives from reflection on work already completed, and the sense that progressively the student is acquiring the artistry associated with the experienced practitioner. Such reflection is based on commentary and dialogue, with staff and, importantly, peers (Parnell, 2001), this feedback performing a critical role in influencing levels of confidence and motivation. Questions arise relating to what students, amongst the totality of guidance received, understand to be feedback (Angus, 2003). How do students engage with guidance, and how important is their engagement to effective learning? Equally, questions arise about the guidance that tutors give, including how the learning process is conveyed, the accessibility of language used, and the form that feedback takes at different points in the learning process. Within architecture, there exists a further differential between the learning experience associated with design studio context, and that relating to non-studio course components. The project aimed to investigate these areas, which are of relevance to the breadth of architecture courses across the UK and beyond.