Tutor feedback - online academic writing courses

Improving tutor feedback on online academic writing courses for postgraduates

Team members: Jill Northcott, Pauline Gillies, David Caulton


Feedback is considered to be central to student learning and academic achievement. With the continuing increase in the numbers of both distance and face to face international Masters students, providing effective online formative feedback to develop second language (L2) English academic writing skills has become a crucial concern. Identifying the characteristics of effective feedback is an important first step in spreading good practice more widely.

Whilst there is a general consensus that effective feedback is personalised, specific and timely (Busse 2013, Hyland 2013), studies into student and teacher perceptions of feedback effectiveness have sometimes produced conflicting results because the experimental design removes feedback “from the contexts in which it has meaning for students” (Hyland 2013: 182). This small-scale grounded theory inspired study aims to provide rich data by investigating written teacher feedback on the weekly texts produced by taught and research postgraduates taking academic writing courses run jointly by ELTC and specific academic programme organisers. The teaching and learning environment is, potentially, a very meaningful context for research in this area.

It is envisaged that the research will develop both understanding and skills in providing effective feedback for ELTC tutors which will contribute to developing better support for the improvement of postgraduate students’ academic writing ability. A better understanding of how to effectively tailor our approach to different disciplinary areas and programme needs should also ensue.

We hope to be able to share our learning more widely with other university staff though both the Schools and IAD initiatives.

Final Project Report

You can download the final project report below:

Final Report: Northcott Final PTAS Report (Word)