Exploring Accounting Students' Interaction with their Assessment Feedback in a UK Post-92 University
This thesis offers a holistic insight into the expectations and experiences of university students in relation to academic feedback. The subjects are a diverse group of first year accounting and finance students in a post-92 university. What is identified and examined here is the lifeworld of a student studying within the current politicalised higher education environment. Many assumptions evident in the literature relating to students’ attitudes and feelings about feedback are challenged. The approach adopted to develop this research is based on Layder’s (1998) ‘adaptive theory’ combining existing social theory with my empirical data to identify and reconcile the impact of the observable social world on the lived experience of our students. A student’s habitus (Bourdieu, 1977) and prior educational experiences often means she is unprepared for university study which results in a difficult and often painful transition. Building strong relationships with peers and academics is one of the most important components of student success, but many academics are often unaware of the reality of these students’ lived experiences, neither are they aware of the possible impact the structures, regulations and overall power of the institution can have on students. This research establishes a link between students’ pre-conceived ideas and expectations and their transition into university. Failure on the part of the institution to respond and manage students’ expectations can lead to growing dissatisfaction with their academic experience which manifests itself in dissatisfaction with assessment, feedback and other aspects of their early experience. When a young, often disadvantaged student attends university she may already have overcome multiple obstacles: poor schooling; poor housing; limited financial resources; and a general lack of higher education knowledge. This research identifies the vast chasm in our understanding of students’ needs and expectations. This study challenges the reliability and usefulness of using a broad range of metrics as proxies for learning, student satisfaction and quality assurance during a period when metrics and benchmarks are being used to shape education. The underpinning rhetoric and ideology which informs political decisions is flawed. The study challenges the current performative approach to providing feedback and measuring effectiveness. Contrary to the classical concept of rational economic man many people’s choices are restricted to a simple satisficing1 strategy because their academic ambition is bounded by cognitive limits because they have not had access to all the cultural and social capitals which might have shaped their decisions and prepared them for their university experiences differently. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological concepts of habitus, capital and disposition (Bourdieu, 1977a), I reposition assessment and feedback within the wider context of the students’ life experiences and identify the limitations imposed on these students, first by their past and then by universities’ failure to position their higher education provision within a framework in which these adolescents can develop and grow within a suitable supportive environment which recognises and accepts who they actually are. Such an approach to their higher education experiences will begin to redress the issue of feedback in accounting.