To ensure quality higher education, students should routinely receive feedback on their academic endeavors. Alongside the question of what makes feedback effective, there is also an emerging research literature about empowering students to understand and utilize that feedback effectively. These abilities and attitudes of students have recently been subsumed under the concept of feedback literacy.

The concept of feedback literacy was conceived by Carless and Boud (2018) as “the understandings, capacities, and dispositions needed to make sense of information and use it to enhance work or learning strategies.” Since then, a vibrant research literature has developed theoretical frameworks, explored dimensions of feedback literacy, and investigated whether feedback literacy can systematically be enhanced, etc. However, what is still missing are larger-scale rigorous investigations of the extent to which feedback literacy actually moderates the effectiveness of feedback. Does it really affect learning? If yes, how and how much? Is the effect mediated through emotions and motivations? Are there types or modes of feedback that require particularly high feedback literacy? To even begin to address these questions, a psychometric measurement instrument for feedback literacy would be a major asset. Until recently, such an instrument was not available.

To fill this gap, we, a team of researchers from DIPF-Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education, Heidelberg University of Education, and Adyaman University, developed such an instrument. To this end, we designed an open-ended process of developing a self-report instrument for capturing student feedback literacy. First, we developed items for measuring feedback literacy based on an extensive review of how scholars have conceptualized it thus far and by utilizing themes from previous qualitative work. After pretesting, we then collected data through this overinclusive item pool to explore the structure of the feedback literacy construct via exploratory factor analysis. Next, using the Rasch measurement model, we evaluated the results with an eye toward making the instrument more accurate and balanced in the future. Finally, from our analysis results we derived suggestions for future scale improvements. A report on the process and the results has now been published in Teaching in Higher Education (Taylor & Francis).

Figure 3. Correlation matrix of feedback literacy dimensions, surface approach, deep motivation, and feedback self-efficacy. ***p < .001.
A correlation matrix demonstrating convergent and discriminant validity of feedback literacy dimensions with related constructs

We found that feedback literacy should be understood and conceptualized on two levels: the cognitive-affective and the behavioral level. In other words, our initial scale yielded two dimensions (subscales), (1) students’ feedback attitudes and (2) their feedback practices. The first dimension, feedback attitudes, includes items like „I believe that I can contribute to the value of feedback processes”. The second dimension, feedback practices, includes items like “I really take my time to reflect on the feedback I have received”. This dual perspective provides a holistic understanding of feedback literacy, while at the same time, being parsimonious in its two-factor structure.

Figure 4. Subthemes and dimensions in hypothesized (left) versus empirical model (right).
A figure displaying the hypothesized dimensions and the empirical model of student feedback literacy

As for implications for practice, first teachers and instructors need to ensure that students understand the purpose of feedback, embrace their active role in it, and adopt a constructive mindset toward it. Second, they may consider designing activities that allow students to actively initiate, make sense of, and use feedback.

Suggested citation: Woitt, S., Weidlich, J., Jivet, J., Orhan Göksün, D., Drachsler, H., & Kalz, M. (2023). Students’ feedback literacy in higher education: an initial scale validation study. Teaching in Higher Education, 1-19 [LINK]