This paper describes our experience of introducing a structured format for students requesting formative feedback on draft work. Initially the aims were to encourage the development of selfassessment skills in distance-learning students and to develop the dialogue between student and tutor. In 2013 we considered the benefits of this initiative could be applied to campus based students with a similar profile. The experiences of staff involved in this process were collated and the advantages and challenges recorded.
Our experience confirms this process results in high quality, specific and consistent feedback which can impact on students’ success in summative assessment. The development of trust in the process results in useful dialogue and increased self-esteem as students gain confidence in their critical-thinking skills. An unexpected benefit shows students utilise the process to express anxieties about, not only their studies, but personal and work challenges, thereby enabling us to provide additional support.
The most challenging aspect for tutors is the time required to provide feedback in this format. This process highlights distinct benefits for students and in our view these outweigh the issue of tutor time, but resources need to be addressed before it can be used effectively for larger cohorts.
Transition to university is a challenging phase in youngsters’ lives. The literature indicates that geographical distance separating the places of study and of family residence adds to the difficulties of transition and adjustment to university. Recent evidence suggests that it also negatively impacts students’ grades. Despite important work done by economists, geographers and psychologists, sociology has devoted scarce interest in understanding this topic. This article seeks to bridge this gap, specifically exploring the reasons justifying the largely ignored effect of distance between the university and family home in academic performance. The study draws on data on undergraduate students of a Portuguese public university, collected through an online survey. Two dimensions, one more related to practical life occupations and another more linked to personal feelings and activities, are examined. It is argued that the negative impact of distance is mainly due to homesickness and to the time spent traveling home. Results from such analysis are twofold socially relevant: of the utmost importance for families, academics and students’ support services, deserve to be seriously considered by policy makers deciding on the territorial distribution of higher-education institutions.
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