Feedback Literacy, Feedback Seeking, GenAI and Emotions

David Carless, Sharon Yang Xiaowen, Belinda Zhou Hui-Ling, Cindy Chen Shijun and Juuso Nieminen, University of Hong Kong

In a recent HKU brown bag feedback session, three doctoral students presented their work-in-progress.

David Carless introduced the session by sharing some key ideas related to feedback. Feedback is a potentially powerful tool for enhancing academic achievement but challenging for numerous reasons: it may not be actionable, comprehensible or useful and it may sometimes be emotionally unsettling. And more fundamentally people often don’t want to be told that they need to change: enhancement has to come from within. Accordingly, self-feedback might be particularly useful in directing one’s own path in an autonomous way. Feedback literacy contributes to tackling various feedback dilemmas and represents the capacities to make the most of feedback opportunities of different kinds.

Yang Xiaowen, Sharon talked about recent emphasis on the utilization of automated feedback in writing, such as the long-standing conventional tool, automated writing evaluation (AWE), and the emerging GenAI. A key rationale is that these tools carry potential in providing sustainable feedback (Carless et al., 2011) through reducing teachers’ workload in large class and providing personalized feedback to students. Technology-enabled feedback potentially enables students to become more actively involved in feedback processes, and is stimulated by teacher and student feedback literacy. While much attention is given to the quality of feedback generated from AWE and GenAI, their potential to reform feedback processes is also pertinent. Since viewing feedback more as dialogue than information transmission may enhance feedback processes, it is crucial to leverage AWE and GenAI to create more dynamic, interactive, and collaborative feedback loops rather than static, one-way communication.

Zhou Hui-Ling, Belinda talked about the relationship between student motivation and feedback-seeking processes. The questions raised during her recent doctoral confirmation seminar have prompted further reflections on her research. The study employs self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017), which encompasses various types of motivation, including intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation. The feedback-seeking process involves multiple dimensions, such as perceived cost, perceived value, and the amount of feedback sought from different sources. To achieve the research objective, an initial quantitative survey will be conducted to investigate the impact of student motivation on students’ feedback-seeking processes. Subsequently, follow-up interviews will delve into how students’ feedback-seeking experiences influence their motivation. The analysis of interview data will also explore the influence of cultural factors guided by Confucian relationalism. The research aims to contribute to understandings of feedback seeking in a mainland Chinese context.

Chen Shijun, Cindy talked about how emotions play a pivotal role in feedback engagement and student learning outcomes. Previous studies indicate that positive emotions were viewed as facilitators of student learning, whereas negative emotions were seen as detrimental to learning engagement and thus should be avoided. This psychological perspective on emotions has evolved, with more research aligning emotions with cognitive processes, suggesting that emotions are experienced in the body and in the brain, dependent on individual appraisals of situations, such as goals, expectations, and the responsible agent. However, psychological or cognitive understandings of emotions are incomplete, as they place emotions in a vacuum. From a sociocultural perspective, emotions are not merely internal states or cognitive skills but are social products shaped by social interactions, exchanges, and cultural norms, and in turn, mediate social, cultural, and political practices. When feedback is regarded as a dialogic process, emotions require more nuanced understandings because they form part of communication. Effective feedback strategies need to consider the psychological, cognitive, and sociocultural dimensions of emotions to facilitate learning and engagement. More importantly, researchers should take a macro and chronological consideration on what role emotions play in feedback encounters (Chen & Nieminen, 2024).

As the discussant, Juuso Nieminen talked about the importance of feedback as a human endeavor. Whereas feedback is sometimes portrayed as a rather mechanical process aimed at promoting student learning outcomes, these three studies ultimately see feedback as a dialogue between students and teachers, mediated by digital technologies, motivations and emotions. This understanding of feedback as a social practice paves the way for more humanistic futures of education. It reminds us that feedback is a part of the fabric of life in higher education and beyond, being influenced by academic emotions and motivations. Perhaps new digital opportunities may reduce teachers’ time devoted to mechanical feedback practices with attendant moves in the direction of engaging in critical and constructive feedback dialogues with students.


Carless, D., Salter, D., Yang, M., & Lam, J. (2011). Developing sustainable feedback practices. Studies in Higher Education, 36 (4) 395-407.

Chen, S., & Nieminen, J. H. (2024). Towards an ecological understanding of student emotions in feedback: a scoping review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-18.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Press.

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