Using student experience as a model for designing an automatic feedback system for short essays


  • Bethany Alden
  • Nicolas Van Labeke
  • Debora Field
  • Stephen Pulman
  • John Richardson
  • Denise Whitelock


The SAFeSEA project (Supportive Automated Feedback for Short Essay Answers) aims to develop an automated feedback system to support university students as they write summative essays. Empirical studies carried out in the initial phase of the system’s development illuminated students’ approaches to and understandings of the essay-writing process. Findings from these studies suggested that, regardless of their experience of higher education, students consider essay-writing as: 1) a sequential set of activities, 2) a process that is enhanced through particular sources of support and 3) a skill that requires the development of personal strategies. Further data collected from tutors offered insight into the feedback and reflection stages of essay-writing. These perspectives offered a fundamental model of essay-writing and feedback to inform the ongoing, iterative development of this automated feedback system and indeed, for any institution developing tools to support students’ writing.