Which characteristics of written feedback are perceived as stimulating students' reflective competence: an exploratory study

Hanke Dekker*, Johanna Schonrock-Adema, Jos W. Snoek, Thys van der Molen, Janke Cohen-Schotanus

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

22 Citaten (Scopus)
294 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Teacher feedback on student reflective writing is recommended to improve learners' reflective competence. To be able to improve teacher feedback on reflective writing, it is essential to gain insight into which characteristics of written feedback stimulate students' reflection processes. Therefore, we investigated (1) which characteristics can be distinguished in written feedback comments on reflective writing and (2) which of these characteristics are perceived to stimulate students' reflection processes.

Methods: We investigated written feedback comments from forty-three teachers on their students' reflective essays. In Study 1, twenty-three medical educators grouped the comments into distinct categories. We used Multiple Correspondence Analysis to determine dimensions in the set of comments. In Study 2, another group of twenty-one medical educators individually judged whether the comments stimulated reflection by rating them on a five-point scale. We used t-tests to investigate whether comments classified as stimulating and not stimulating reflection differed in their scores on the dimensions.

Results: Our results showed that characteristics of written feedback comments can be described in three dimensions: format of the feedback (phrased as statement versus question), focus of the feedback (related to the levels of students' reflections) and tone of the feedback (positive versus negative). Furthermore, comments phrased as a question and in a positive tone were judged as stimulating reflection more than comments at the opposite side of those dimensions (t = (14.5) = 6.48; p = <.001 and t = (15) = -1.80; p <.10 respectively). The effect sizes were large for format of the feedback comment (r = .86) and medium for tone of the feedback comment (r = .42).

Conclusions: This study suggests that written feedback comments on students' reflective essays should be formulated as a question, positive in tone and tailored to the individual student's reflective level in order to stimulate students to reflect on a slightly higher level. Further research is needed to examine whether incorporating these characteristics into teacher training helps to improve the quality of written feedback comments on reflective writing.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's7
TijdschriftBMC Medical Education
StatusPublished - 8-jul-2013

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