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What are students' needs and preferences for academic feedback in higher education? A systematic review.

Paterson, Catherine; Paterson, Nathan; Jackson, William; Work, Fiona


Catherine Paterson

Nathan Paterson


Objective: Feedback is a fundamental factor within the learning process for students. However, it is widely known that students generally report that feedback is done sub-optimally in higher education. Therefore, this systematic review aims to identify students' needs and preferences for academic feedback in higher education. Design, Data sources, review methods: A systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA Statement Guidelines. Electronic databases were searched using a range of keywords and the findings were integrated in a narrative synthesis. Quality appraisal was undertaken. Results: 5884 articles were retrieved, and 36 papers included. Three themes emerged across a wide range of academic disciplines which included: 1) preferences for feedback, 2) multimodality feedback and 3) emotional impact. Overall, quality feedback was related to the timeliness of feedback; balance between positive and constructive comments; direct feedback on content; linguistic clarity and legibility; grade justification and feeding forward. Conclusion: This review has informed several important implications for practice uniquely from the students' perspectives. Educators are encouraged to implement the evidence-based preferences for student feedback in their daily practice. Students value multimodality feedback which is personalised to enable students to feed forward in their own individual learning journeys. Future research should explore whether demographic variables influence student feedback needs over time. We would recommend that future studies need to employ a rigorous methodology to avoid the shortcomings in the studies already conducted in this area.


PATERSON, C., PATERSON, N., JACKSON, W. and WORK, F. 2020. What are students' needs and preferences for academic feedback in higher education? A systematic review. Nurse education today [online], 85, article ID 104236. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 1, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 22, 2019
Publication Date Feb 29, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 23, 2020
Journal Nurse Education Today
Print ISSN 0260-6917
Electronic ISSN 1532-2793
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 85
Article Number 104236
Keywords Higher education; Feedback; Needs; Preferences; Systematic review: Students
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