Dr Kieran Balloo

Research Fellow and ESRC Project Coordinator

Academic and research departments

Surrey Institute of Education.


Affiliations and memberships

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
Awarded 2020


Research interests

Research projects

Indicators of esteem

  • Member of the Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) Journal’s College of Reviewers

  • Psychology advisory board member, Pearson Education Ltd.


Postgraduate research supervision


Derham, C., Balloo, K., & Winstone, N. E. (2021) The focus, function and framing of feedback information: Linguistic and content analysis of in-text feedback comments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.

In-text comments, in the form of annotations on students’ work, are a form of feedback information that should guide students to take action. It is both the focus of in-text comments, and the ways in which they are linguistically communicated, that has the potential to impact upon how they are perceived by students. This study reports on an analysis of 2101 in-text comments added by markers to 60 summative essays from two disciplines. The majority of comments, regardless of the grade awarded, were found to be directed at the task performance, rather than relating to the level of process or self-regulation. Work awarded higher grades received fewer annotations; these essays were found to include more feedback comments expressing a positive tone, with limited opportunities for informing further development. Work awarded lower grades mainly received corrective comments, as well as comments characterised by interrogative language and words expressing risk. It is argued that the linguistic style may influence engagement with in-text comments, impacting upon students’ affective and emotional states, and their level of cognitive engagement with the feedback information. Recommendations for markers’ practices are identified, to facilitate the opportunities for engagement and action that in-text comments might afford.

Balloo, K., Gravett, K., & Erskine, G. (2021) ‘I’m not sure where home is’: narratives of student mobilities into and through higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education.

The concept of a typical pathway to becoming a student is a pervasive narrative within higher education, with moving away from home to live at university framed as the “traditional student experience”. In response, recent literature has begun to trouble the thinking around student mobilities. Building on this work, this study draws upon semi-structured interviews with students who have moved away from home into university residences in order to surface the multiplicity and diversity of mobilities and transitions. Engaging concepts from posthumanist and poststructuralist theory, we propose a reconceptualisation of students’ mobilities and transitions as rhizomatic, and as ongoing becomings. Furthermore, we also surface the materiality of students’ experiences, acknowledging the role of the non-human within students’ mobilities. As a result, we extend the emerging work attending to more complex depictions of students’ mobilities, and examine the implications of acknowledging the heterogeneity, materiality and granularity of students’ experiences.

Derham, C., & Balloo, K. (2021) The focus, function and framing of in-text feedback comments. In K. Balloo (Chair), Enhancing feedback practices. Workshop Conducted at the Veterinary Schools Council Veterinary Education Symposium (VetEd), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey, UK.
Balloo, K., Hosein, A., Byrom, N., & Essau, C. A. (2021) Impacts of adolescent mental health, social identity, and university attendance on mental health during emerging adulthood: Intersectional multilevel analyses of a national cohort study. Paper Presented at the Institute of Mental Health Sciences Conference: Mental Health across the Life-course, Ulster University (online).

It is unclear whether recent increases in mental health issues reported by students are comparable between young people in and out of higher education. Furthermore, university (non)attendance may combine with individuals’ other social identities to lead to mental health inequalities. Using quantitative longitudinal data from the national cohort study, Next Steps, we conducted multilevel analyses within an intersectional framework. We examined predictors of mental health during emerging adulthood with combinations of the following characteristics: adolescent mental health (measured at age 16), university attendance, sex, socioeconomic class, sexuality, and ethnicity. The findings indicated that respondents who had symptoms of mental ill health during adolescence were more likely to attend university. At age 19, respondents who had symptoms of adolescent mental ill health were more likely to report having no close friends and lower life satisfaction. Individuals attending university were more likely to report having one or more close friends, and greater life satisfaction, independently of their mental health during adolescence. Those who had symptoms of mental ill health during adolescence were more likely to have poorer mental health outcomes at age 25. The opposite pattern was found for those who had been to university, independently of their adolescent mental health. Mixed patterns of predictions were found for respondents’ other social identities. We found that intersectional effects were additive, suggesting that characteristics are layered and independent in predicting mental health outcomes (i.e. they do not amplify each other). This has potential implications for how interventions should be targeted towards particular intersectional subgroups.

Balloo, K., & Winstone, N. E. (2021) A primer on gathering and analysing multi-level quantitative evidence for differential student outcomes in higher education. Frontline Learning Research, 9(2), 121–144.

A significant challenge currently facing the higher education sector is how to address differential student outcomes in terms of attainment and continuation gaps at various stages of students’ transitions. Worryingly, there appears to be a ‘deficit’ discourse among some university staff in which differential outcomes are perceived to be due to student deficiencies. This may be exacerbated by institutional analyses placing an over-emphasis on the presence of the gaps rather than the causes. The purpose of this primer is to provide advice about how institutions can carry out far more nuanced analyses of their institutional data without requiring specialist software or expertise. Drawing on a multi-level framework for explaining differential outcomes, we begin with guidance for gathering quantitative data on explanatory factors for attainment and continuation gaps, largely by linking sources of internal data that have not previously been connected. Using illustrative examples, we then provide tutorials for how to model explanatory factors employing IBM SPSS Statistics (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY, USA) to perform and interpret regression and meta-regression analyses of individual- and group-level (aggregated) student data, combined with data on micro- and meso-level factors. We propose that university staff with strategic responsibilities could use these approaches with their institutional data, and the findings could then inform the design of context-specific interventions that focus on changing practices associated with gaps. In doing so, institutions could enhance the evidence-base, raise awareness, and further ‘embed the agenda’ when it comes to understanding potential reasons for differential student outcomes during educational transitions.

Ramdhonee-Dowlot, K. S., Balloo, K., & Essau, C. A. (2021) Effectiveness of the Super Skills for Life programme in enhancing the emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents in residential care institutions in a low- and middle-income country: A randomised waitlist-controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders, 278, 327-338.


The present study examined the effectiveness of a transdiagnostic prevention programme, Super Skills for Life (SSL), among children and adolescents with emotional problems in residential care institutions (RCIs) in the low- and middle-income country of Mauritius using a randomised waitlist-controlled trial (RCT). SSL is based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural activation, social skills training, and uses video-feedback and cognitive preparation as part of the treatment.


The RCT involved 100 children and adolescents aged 9 to 14 years, from six RCIs, randomly allocated to either an SSL intervention group (IG) or a waitlist-control (WLC) group. A set of questionnaires measuring internalising and externalising problems, emotion regulation and self-esteem, and experimental tasks measuring attentional bias and inhibitory control, were completed at baseline, post-intervention and 3-month follow-up. Participants also completed a 2-minute video speech task during the first and final sessions of the SSL intervention.


Children and adolescents in the SSL IG showed significant improvements in internalising symptoms (e.g. anxiety and depressive symptoms), externalising symptoms (e.g. conduct problems and hyperactivity), and inhibitory control, and an increase in adaptive (except putting into perspective strategy) and decrease in maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, at both post-intervention and follow-up. These findings were not replicated among children in the WLC.


The small sample size and lack of an active control group were the major limitations of this study.


This study provides evidence for the effectiveness of a transdiagnostic prevention programme for emotional problems in RCIs in a low- and middle-income country.

Subasinghe, D. W. D., Sofokleous, S., Howgate, M., Bartlett, K., Trace, C., Balloo, K., Lygo-Baker, S., Cockcroft, P., Wyles, K., Macdonald, A., & Chambers, M. (2020) Efficacy of a Microbial Reality Simulator (AMRSim) as an education tool for antimicrobial stewardship teaching for veterinary undergraduates. Paper Presented at the GW4 Multidisciplinary Approaches to AMR; Bench to bedside and beyond Online symposium.

Antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary clinical practice with effective infection prevention and control (IPC) measures is important in reducing the use of antibiotics. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of the AMRSim tool (simulating the pre-surgical preparation of a dog patient) in influencing the knowledge, confidence levels and perception of veterinary students towards antimicrobial resistance (AMR), asepsis and IPC contributing to pre-surgical sterility. A quasi-experimental study was conducted as a voluntary sign up series of facilitated workshops independent from the curriculum for the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Science degree program students at the University of Surrey vet school. 69 students from years 1-4 participated in the study (41; experimental group) from February to March 2020. Participants completed Jisc® online questionnaires, before (7-10 days), during (only experimental group) and after (7-10 days) the workshop. Data were analysed with Mann-Whitney U Tests. At baseline, no statistically significant differences were found between the experimental and control groups on any of the pre-tests for baseline IPC knowledge questions (p > .05). Post-tests indicated some significant improvements for the experimental group in that they agreed that they would be more likely to carry out IPC behaviours in future veterinary practice than the control group (U = 527.50, p < .001). They also demonstrated improved IPC knowledge about whether to use antibiotics when preparing an animal for surgery depending on the type of surgery undertaken (U = 432.00, p = .043). Post workshop questionnaire responses indicated that the learning experience with the AMRSim tool was enjoyable (100% positive), engaging (97% positive), changed attitude of participants towards asepsis and its role in AMR (82.5% positive) and that they understand more about asepsis than before (80% positive). Percentage of participants who felt “very/extremely informed” about IPC increased 3-fold from 26% (before) to 79% after the workshop. Participants further agreed that they would be more likely to adhere to IPC measures in clinical placements in the remainder of their undergraduate years due to the learning archived at the workshop. Further pedagogical research is being carried out using the AMRsim tool within the curriculum as this project continues.

Winstone, N. E., Balloo, K., & Carless, D. (2020) Discipline-specific feedback literacies: A framework for curriculum design. Higher Education.

Feedback literacy is an important graduate attribute that supports students’ future work capacities. This study aimed to develop a framework through which discipline-specific feedback literacies, as a set of socially-situated skills, can be developed within core curricula. The framework is developed through: a content analysis of National Qualifications Frameworks from six countries and UK Subject Benchmark Statements for multiple disciplines; analysis of indicative subject content for a range of disciplines; and consultation with subject-matter experts. Whilst most of the benchmark statements incorporate the development of feedback literacy skills related to ‘making judgements’, attributes relating to ‘appreciating feedback’ and ‘taking action based on feedback’ are less prevalent. Skills related to ‘managing the affective challenges of feedback’ are most prevalent in documentation for applied disciplines. The resulting empirically-guided curriculum design framework showcases how integrating the development of discipline-specific feedback literacies can be enacted through authentic learning activities and assessment tasks. In terms of implications for practice, the framework represents in concrete terms how discipline-specific feedback literacies can be integrated within higher education curricula. The findings also have implications for policy: by positioning discipline-specific feedback literacies as graduate outcomes, we believe they should be integrated within national qualifications frameworks as crucial skills to be developed through higher education courses. Finally, from a theoretical perspective, we advance conceptions of feedback literacy through a sociocultural approach and propose new directions for research that seek to reconceptualise a singular concept of feedback literacy as multiple feedback literacies that unfold in distinctive ways across disciplines.

Balloo, K., Panadero, E., & Winstone, N. E. (2020) A systematic review of interventions targeting self-regulation in higher education. Paper Accepted by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA (conference cancelled).

Many interventions have been designed to facilitate higher education students’ self-regulation, so it would be beneficial to identify what approaches have been evaluated in previous research, and understand more about the components of self-regulation they have targeted. This study presents a systematic review of this previous research. A search of databases for studies published between 1st January 2000 and 31st August 2018 resulted in 230 studies being included in a qualitative synthesis. We categorized the interventions and coded the components of self-regulation targeted within each study. The most prevalent interventions included scaffolds/prompts and strategy training programs. Metacognitive self-regulation was most commonly targeted by the interventions. We discuss how some components of self-regulation receive far less attention in intervention studies.

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M., Winstone, N. E., Balloo, K., Heron, M., Hosein, A., Lygo-Baker, S., & Medland, E. (2020) The development of academics’ feedback literacy: experiences of learning from critical feedback via scholarly peer review. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 45(5), 651-665.

The emerging literature related to feedback literacy has hitherto focused primarily on students’ engagement with feedback, and yet an analysis of academics’ feedback literacy is also of interest to those seeking to understand effective strategies to engage with feedback. Data from concept map-mediated interviews and reflections, with a team of six colleagues, surface academics’ responses to receiving critical feedback via scholarly peer review. Our findings reveal that feedback can be visceral and affecting, but that academics employ a number of strategies to engage with this process. This process can lead to actions that are both instrumental, enabling academics to more effectively ‘play the game’ of publication, as well as to learning that is more positively and holistically developmental. This study thus aims to open up a dialogue with colleagues internationally about the role of feedback literacy, for both academics and students. By openly sharing our own experiences we seek to normalise the difficulties academics routinely experience when engaging with critical feedback, to share the learning and strategies which can result from peer review feedback, and to explore how academics may occupy a comparable role to students who also receive evaluation of their work. 

Winstone, N. E., Balloo, K., Gravett, K., Jacobs, D., & Keen, H. (2020) Who stands to benefit? Wellbeing, belonging, and challenges to equity in engagement in extra-curricular activities. Active Learning in Higher Education.

Students’ engagement in Extra-Curricular Activities (ECAs) can play a significant role in their development of a student identity, as well as leading to a greater sense of belonging and wellbeing. However, individual characteristics such as sociability may influence the likelihood of students engaging in ECAs. We collected mixed mode data from two online surveys to explore students’ perceptions of the impact of engagement in ECAs on their experience at university, as well as the mediating role of engagement in ECAs in the relationships between extraversion and wellbeing and sense of belonging to the University. Our data demonstrate that extraversion is positively associated with both belonging and wellbeing, and that engagement in ECAs mediates these relationships. Our qualitative data uncover further nuances in engagement with ECAs; whilst many perceived outcomes are positive, some students express regret at opportunities missed, and find it challenging to balance ECAs and their studies. Taken together, these findings indicate that not all students stand to benefit equally from engagement in ECAs. Providing a range of opportunities that are accessible to a wide range of students may promote equity in participation in ECAs.

Balloo, K., & Vashakidze, A. (2020) Facilitating students’ proactive recipience of feedback with feedback portfolios. In K. Gravett, N. Yakovchuk, & I. M. Kinchin (Eds.), Enhancing student-centred teaching in higher education: The landscape of student-staff research partnerships (pp. 255-272). Palgrave Macmillan.

Feedback is most effective when students are active participants in the feedback process. However, students may need to be supported to become proactive recipients of feedback. This chapter discusses how feedback portfolios are potentially useful interventions that may facilitate students’ recipience skills of self-appraisal, goal-setting and self-regulation, and engagement and motivation. After reviewing the ways in which feedback portfolios appear to target recipience processes, we present a qualitative case study of students’ perceptions of a VLE-embedded feedback e-portfolio to understand more about the ways in which portfolios actually facilitate recipience skills, and whether any barriers are experienced by students. We also reflect on our student–staff partnership approach, particularly in relation to how this benefitted our case study data collection.

Balloo, K., Winstone, N. E., & Carless, D. (2019) A crucial graduate attribute? Embedding feedback literacy into curricula across higher education. Paper Presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) International Conference, Newport, UK.

Students’ capacities for using feedback form part of their feedback literacy, which can be viewed as a core graduate attribute. Since National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) and subject-level benchmark statements (SBSs) provide guidance about graduate or threshold outcomes, we coded a sample of these frameworks for evidence of concepts pertaining to feedback literacy. Of the four key features of feedback literacy identified by Carless and Boud (2018), only ‘Managing Affect’ and ‘Making Judgements’ were identified in the NQFs, whereas ‘Appreciating Feedback’ and ‘Taking Action’ were not present. All features were present in the SBSs, with ‘Making Judgements’ coded most frequently and ‘Appreciating Feedback’ least frequently. Indicators of feedback literacy were identified in ‘applied’ disciplines more than ‘pure’ disciplines. We highlight the need for integrating more aspects of feedback literacy into ‘pure’ disciplinary curricula, as well as finding ways for encouraging students to appreciate feedback in all its forms whilst taking action.

Balloo, K. (2019) Students’ difficulties during research methods training acting as potential barriers to their development of scientific thinking. In M. Murtonen & K. Balloo (Eds.), Redefining scientific thinking for higher education: Higher-order thinking, evidence-based reasoning and research skills (pp. 107–137). Palgrave Macmillan.

Students are likely to develop scientific thinking skills through participation in research methods training courses, so any difficulties experienced during these courses might then act as potential barriers to the development of these skills. This chapter begins by reviewing common difficulties experienced by students during this training, which are categorised into the following themes: Affective Issues with Research; Negative and Naïve Conceptions of Research; and Cognitive Complexity of Research. Some of the pedagogical approaches to dealing with students’ issues are briefly discussed before presenting a qualitative phenomenological investigation of the undergraduate experience of research methods training. This chapter ends by discussing practical implications of the investigation’s findings to aid research methods instructors in reducing the chances of barriers forming.

Murtonen, M., & Balloo, K. (Eds.). (2019) Redefining scientific thinking for higher education: Higher-order thinking, evidence-based reasoning and research skills. Palgrave Macmillan.

This book examines the learning and development process of students’ scientific thinking skills. Universities should prepare students to be able to make judgements in their working lives based on scientific evidence. However, an understanding of how these thinking skills can be developed is limited. This book introduces a new broad theory of scientific thinking for higher education; in doing so, redefining higher-order thinking abilities as scientific thinking skills. This includes critical thinking and understanding the basics of science, epistemic maturity, research and evidence-based reasoning skills and contextual understanding. The editors and contributors discuss how this concept can be redefined, as well as the challenges educators and students may face when attempting to teach and learn these skills. This edited collection will be of interest to students and scholars of student scientific skills and higher-order thinking abilities.

Evans, C., Zhu, X., Winstone, N., Balloo, K., Hughes, A., & Bright, C. (2019) Maximising Student Success through the Development of Self-Regulation. Addressing Barriers to Student Success, Office for Students’ Final Report. University of Southampton with Office for Students, UK

An institutional approach to addressing differential learning outcomes of students using a research-informed inclusive integrated assessment framework (EAT).

Derham, C., Balloo, K., Norman, M., & Winstone, N. E. (2019) ‘What’s the point?’ Do annotations on students’ work promote self-regulation? Paper Presented at the 18th Biennial European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference, Aachen, Germany.

As one component of the feedback process, annotations on student work should focus upon providing explanations and guidance, which encourage students to use the comments to develop their abilities to act as self-regulated learners; thus promoting what Carless (2015) refers to as the new paradigm of feedback practices. This is contrary to the old paradigm in which annotations merely serve to transfer information, characterised by evaluative statements and corrective advice. It is argued that it is not only the content of the message, but also the language used, which has an impact upon the sustainability of this form of feedback practice. The current study reports on an analysis of annotations in the form of 1760 in-text comments added by markers to 52 summative essays. Findings indicated that the majority of comments were directed at the level of task performance rather than relating to the process (i.e. giving students advice about their future work and regulation of their actions). Additionally, there were positive correlations found between grades and words expressing a positive emotional tone, as well as negative correlations between grades and words which had connotations of sadness, risk and were phrased as questions. It appears that all annotations encourage the old paradigm as they focus upon the delivery of information, which minimises the potential upon student learning. It is argued that markers’ practices could be modified to incorporate appropriate language and direction which could have a more positive impact upon students learning, maximising the benefit of in-text comments.

Balloo, K., Pauli, R., & Worrell, M. (2018) Conceptions of research methods learning among psychology undergraduates: A Q methodology study. Cognition and Instruction, 36(4), 279–296.

A range of conceptions held about research methods learning have previously been identified. This study aimed to examine in-depth shared conceptions among undergraduate psychology students. Utilizing Q methodology, which links both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to uncover the subjective viewpoints that a group of individuals hold toward a particular domain, participants ranked statements reflecting different conceptions of research methods learning. Ranks were then factor analyzed and four distinct profiles of student conceptions were identified, labelled, and described in qualitative detail: research methods as integral to psychologyresearch methods as a digression from psychologyresearch methods as disconnected from psychology, and research methods as beneficial to psychology. Some of the perspectives displayed a clear understanding about the reasons for undertaking research and learning about research methods in psychology, whereas other standpoints saw research as being something that was difficult to relate to the practice of psychology. Findings are considered in terms of how some conceptions appear to be more beneficial or problematic to hold than others and recommendations are made to educators about how they could support students to change their views.

Balloo, K. (2018) In-depth profiles of the expectations of undergraduate students commencing university: a Q methodological analysis. Studies in Higher Education, 43(12), 2251-2262.

Research shows that undergraduate students have many expectations of their university as they commence studying. The current study utilised Q methodology to gain an in-depth understanding of these expectations by examining shared viewpoints between groups of students. First-year undergraduate psychology students ranked statements in their induction week on expectations of university regarding teaching and assessment approaches, lecturer behaviour, organisational and resources support and issues relating to student autonomy. Factor analysis of these ranks revealed three profiles of expectations that were labelled and interpreted holistically in qualitative detail: Expecting to put in the hard work and be supported by tutors, Expecting a different experience to high school and Expecting to strike a balance between university and everyday life. These profiles demonstrate that students’ expectations should not be discussed in homogeneous terms. Recommendations are made for educators in terms of understanding discrepancies between expectations and the service which will be provided.

Balloo, K., Norman, M., & Winstone, N. E. (2018) Evaluation of a large-scale inclusive assessment intervention: a novel approach to quantifying perceptions about assessment literacy. In C. A. Evans (Chair), A principled approach to the development, implementation, and evaluation of research-informed assessment practices within higher education. Symposium Conducted at the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) International Conference, Newport, UK.

Assessment literacy involves students having a clear understanding of standards and criteria, which allows for the development of self-regulation. We introduced a standardised assessment brief template, built on principles from the inclusive assessment EAT Framework, to enhance students’ assessment literacy. In order to evaluate this approach, students responded to open-ended questions about whether they felt this approach supported their development of assessment literacy. As a means of understanding the beliefs and thinking patterns in students’ responses, text analysis software, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), was used to identify the presence of words in responses from particular linguistic domains. Significant differences in students’ self-regulation were found based on their choice of words; students who expressed more negative language had significantly lower self-regulation. The findings indicate that the design of our assessment brief template has the potential for developing aspects of perceived assessment literacy that are linked to self-regulation.

Evans, C. A., Winstone, N. E., Hughes, A., Zhu, X., Balloo, K., & Kyei, C. (2018) Managing complex assessment interventions: Research within research. In C. A. Evans (Chair), A principled approach to the development, implementation, and evaluation of research-informed assessment practices within higher education. Symposium Conducted at the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) International Conference, Newport, UK.

Managing complex assessment interventions within higher education is especially challenging given transparency, accountability, equity, and value for money agendas impacting higher education (Caspersen, Smeby, & Aamodt, 2017; Mountford-Zimdars, Sabri, Moore, Sanders, Jones, & Higham, 2015). Institutional responses to such agendas directly impact work at the project implementation level requiring increasing agility and adaptability in the current HE climate. This paper highlights the importance of evaluative processes as a central component of project design. We describe a process to explore the experiences of those leading and managing a complex assessment intervention focused on promoting the self-regulatory development of undergraduate students in three higher education institutions in the UK. In doing so, it highlights the importance of an iterative evaluative approach embedded within the project design and the complexities inherent in trying to implement the project in practice, mindful of the need for rigour regarding the use of data, choice of methodologies, and inferences that could reasonably be deduced from the research. The need for ongoing evaluation as integral to project management is highlighted. Tools and approaches to support this evaluative process as part of ‘research within research’ will be elucidated and shared.

Balloo, K., Evans, C. A., Hughes, A., Zhu, X., & Winstone, N. E. (2018) Transparency isn’t spoon-feeding: How a transformative approach to the use of explicit assessment criteria can support student self-regulation. Frontiers in Education, 3(69).

If little care is taken when establishing clear assessment requirements, there is the potential for spoon-feeding. However, in this conceptual article we argue that transparency in assessment is essential to providing equality of opportunity and promoting students’ self-regulatory capacity. We begin by showing how a research-informed inclusive pedagogy, the EAT Framework, can be used to improve assessment practices to ensure that the purposes, processes, and requirements of assessment are clear and explicit to students. The EAT Framework foregrounds how students' and teachers' conceptions of learning (i.e., whether one has a transactional or transformative conception of learning within a specific context) impact assessment practices. In this article, we highlight the importance of being explicit in promoting access to learning, and in referencing the EAT Framework, the importance of developing transformative rather than transactional approaches to being explicit. Firstly, we discuss how transparency in the assessment process could lead to “criteria compliance” (Torrance, 2007, p. 282) and learner instrumentalism if a transactional approach to transparency, involving high external regulation, is used. Importantly, we highlight how explicit assessment criteria can hinder learner autonomy if paired with an overreliance on criteria-focused ‘coaching’ from teachers. We then address how ‘being explicit with assessment’ does not constitute spoon-feeding when used to promote understanding of assessment practices, and the application of deeper approaches to learning as an integral component of an inclusive learning environment. We then provide evidence on how explicit assessment criteria allow students to self-assess as part of self-regulation, noting that explicit criteria may be more effective when drawing on a transformative approach to transparency, which acknowledges the importance of transparent and mutual student-teacher communications about assessment requirements. We conclude by providing recommendations to teachers and students about how explicit assessment criteria can be used to improve students' learning. Through an emphasis on transparency of process, clarity of roles, and explication of what constitutes quality within a specific discipline, underpinned by a transformative approach, students and teachers should be better equipped to self-manage their own learning and teaching.

Balloo, K., Winstone, N. E., & Evans, C. A. (2018) The intervening role of assessment literacy in relationships between feedback literacy and self-regulation. Poster Presented at the 9th Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) SIG1: Assessment and Evaluation, Helsinki, Finland.

Feedback literate students are more likely to generate internal feedback to monitor their progress towards learning goals and they may therefore exhibit greater self-regulatory skills. However, any relationships between feedback literacy (FL) and self-regulation (SR) may in fact be indirectly explained by assessment literacy (AL) or dependent on individuals having high levels of AL. Therefore, the current study investigated whether AL mediates and/or moderates any relationships between FL and SR. Questionnaire scales measuring FL, AL and SR were completed by 298 undergraduate students across multiple disciplines. Mediation analyses revealed that the relationship between feedback utility (i.e. the perception that feedback will be useful) and SR was fully mediated by the assessment for learning aspect of AL (i.e. the ability to use assessment tasks to augment or monitor learning). Moderation analyses indicated that the positive relationship between feedback social awareness (i.e. feedback being used to help individuals understand how they are perceived by others) and SR was only present when individuals had greater levels of the assessment for learning aspect of AL; this relationship was not present when scores on this aspect of AL were average or low. Findings are discussed in terms of how some relationships between FL and SR are either explained by AL or are dependent on greater levels of AL, but most aspects of FL still directly relate to SR.

Balloo, K., Pauli, R., & Worrell, M. (2017) Undergraduates’ personal circumstances, expectations and reasons for attending university. Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), 1373-1384.

Undergraduate students are likely to have a range of reasons for attending university and expectations about their education. The current study aimed to determine the most prevalent reasons and expectations among students, and how these differed based on their personal circumstances. First-year undergraduate psychology students completed a questionnaire on reasons for attending university and expectations of university regarding assessment, teaching, learning and organisational resources. Improving career prospects was found to be the most important reason for attending university. The most important aspect of assessment was receiving feedback clarifying things they did not understand. Being good at explaining things was the most important teaching quality. Reasons and expectations were also found to differ depending on students’ gender, age group, caring responsibilities, application route, fee status and whether English is their first language. Implications for educators are discussed in terms of bringing student experiences more in-line with their expectations.

Balloo, K. (2017) Undergraduates’ conceptions of research methods learning. In M. Murtonen (Organiser), Research competence as part of scientific thinking in university education. Symposium Conducted at the 17th Biennial European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference, Tampere, Finland.

A range of conceptions held about research methods learning have previously been identified. The current study aimed to examine in-depth shared conceptions among groups of undergraduate students, since individual conceptions are unlikely to exist in isolation. Utilising Q methodology, which links both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to uncover the subjective viewpoints that a group of individuals hold towards a particular domain, participants ranked statements reflecting different conceptions of research methods learning. Ranks were then factor analysed and seven distinct profiles of student conceptions were identified, labelled and described in qualitative detail: Big Picture Students (Aspiring Researchers), Big Picture Students (Non-Aspiring Researchers), Other-Focused and Superficial Learners, Calm and Dismissive Learner vs. Anxious and Concerned Learner, Unconvinced Students vs. Converted Student, Side-choosing Researchers, and Relaxed and Reductionist Learners. A significant association was found between these profiles and the students’ year of study; final year students displayed more ‘big picture’ views of research, while first year students showed a more superficial understanding. There was also a significant association between profiles and performance on research assignments; students who exemplified ‘big picture’ narratives performed better than those who exhibited superficial perspectives. Findings are considered in terms of how some conceptions take longer to develop and appear to be more beneficial or problematic to hold than others.

Balloo, K., Pauli, R., & Worrell, M. (2016) Individual differences in psychology undergraduates’ development of research methods knowledge and skills. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 217, 790–800.

Not all psychology undergraduates appear to benefit from participating in research methodology classes. This longitudinal study tracked how students’ knowledge of research methods developed throughout their three-year undergraduate psychology degree. Card sorting procedures measuring knowledge of research methods terminology were repeated at four time-points across three years then analyzed using multidimensional scaling. There was no significant improvement in students’ research methods structural knowledge after a year, but there was by the end of students’ second year. Knowledge did not improve after students’ final year of study. Various metacognitive and motivational variables were significant correlates of research methods knowledge and research skills. Structural knowledge of research methods terminology appears to be developed from formal methodology training and is not improved upon after completion of a final year research project dissertation. Improving metacognitive skills and increasing motivation for methodology classes may be linked to better development of research methods knowledge and research skills.

Balloo, K., Pauli, R., & Worrell, M. (2015) Individual differences in psychology undergraduates’ development of research methods knowledge and skills. Poster Presented at the 6th International Conference on Education & Educational Psychology (ICEEPSY), Istanbul, Turkey.
Marzouq, S., McSweeney, M. S. C., Sinton-Hewitt, M., & Balloo, K. (2014) Students as partners in departmental research participation: The approaches to learning project. Paper Presented at the HEA STEM Annual Learning and Teaching Conference: Enhancing the STEM Student Journey, Edinburgh, UK.

The Approaches to Learning Project (ALP), is an undergraduate research participation scheme at The University of Roehampton. The aim of the ALP is for doctoral students to plan and deliver a series of sessions for first year undergraduate students that combine research participation with relevant lectures and workshops. ALP delivery is integrated at programme level, to meet a range of learning objectives. While traditional course credit schemes provide some pedagogic value to participants, we believe that the ALP provides further and distinct benefits to the undergraduate students involved, the doctoral students coordinating it, and the wider department. We will share examples of our practice including sample ALP session content, ethical considerations and the different ways students have benefited from engaging with the scheme.