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Unpacking the feedback process: an analysis of undergraduate students’ interactional meaning-making of feedback comments

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Pages 260-274 | Published online: 08 Aug 2017


In light of a growing emphasis on student-centred learning approaches, feedback is viewed as an activity that has potential to facilitate higher education students’ explorations of knowledge contents and practices. However, research shows that feedback does not always lead to the expected student engagement. This qualitative study proposes a feedback conceptualization informed by sociocultural notions, in which students co-construct meaning from the teacher’s feedback comments through interaction over time, with each other, the teacher, and relevant resources. Based on an in-depth analysis of undergraduate biology students’ discussions of feedback comments, we found that the feedback process takes the form of a meaning-making trajectory students move along by orienting towards and elaborating on both task-specific and general-knowledge content. Thereby, we contribute to a better understanding of what constitutes feedback processes viewed from an interactional perspective and generate knowledge on how to tailor our feedback practices to better address the students’ needs.


This study was carried out in the context of the QNHE project (Quality of Norwegian Higher Education; The authors would like to thank Monika Nerland and members of the ExCID research group for their valuable comments on the manuscript and the participants in the study for allowing us to gain insight into their work.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


Rachelle Esterhazy


1 These student names are pseudonyms.

Additional information


This work was supported by the Norwegian Research Council under FINNUT [grant number 237960].

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