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An interpretive phenomenological analysis of nursing student perceptions of summative assessment feedback using LEGO® Serious Play®

Benjamin Ajibade (Department of Nursing Midwifery and Health, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
Catherine Hayes (Department of Pharmacy Health and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 7 September 2023




The aim of the study is to explore perceptions of the impact of assessment feedback by international undergraduate nursing students. Research to date indicates that summative assessment feedback may impact significantly on student achievement but if it is undertaken sub optimally or does not provide students with the opportunity to engage with the process and reflexively respond, it can also be exceptionally damaging to the learning experience.


A scoping exercise of overall student feedback experience was initially collated via the adoption of an Interpretive Phenomenological Approach (IPA). Participants were recruited via purposive sampling and the LEGO® Serious Play® method was used to collect data. Analysis with Quirkos software was used to examine the salience as well as commonality of findings as an integral part of a recognised five-step thematic analytical approach.


Feedback was perceived, by students, as significantly impacting factor in relation to their overall progression, attainment and retention rates. Themes generated from the findings evidenced student perceptions that summative feedback is a positive driver and source of motivation for academic success and progression. It was perceived that levels of attainment were related to the clarity, quality and individualised nature of feedback that students received and that this was perceived to be evident in their final grades. These were accompanied by perceptions that feedback clarity also determined the potential of breaking down perceived student barriers to learning, their perceived capacity for effective assignment planning and preparation and the likelihood of them having any positive collective or individual interpersonal relationships with their tutors. Summarised, students perceived that feedback ought to lead to student empowerment in managing their studies and as such it ought to be clear, straightforward and non-ambiguous.

Research limitations/implications

The methodological design of the study means that generalisability from its findings was never intended or possible. However, there may be the potential transferability of findings to similar institutions and contexts of nurse education with students who have similar demographic profiling. The study was also a means of providing an insight into the lived experience of students which could be used in the prospective adaptation of feedback mechanisms for staff at a local level within Higher Education.

Practical implications

The study reveals the perceived impact of gamification as a mechanism of summative assessment as conveyed by a designated group of students. Whilst specific recommendations for change can only be made within the context specificity of the research, there may be aspects of the findings which are potentially transferable to other similar contexts of Higher Education delivery whose pedagogical approaches mirror those in operation at the institution where the research was undertaken. It became apparent that the standardisation of feedback approaches offered many opportunities to improve existing systems. The issue of monitoring workloads is also of significance in terms of the level and degree of summative assessment and feedback that academic staff can undertake.


The study revealed the perceived magnitude of assessment feedback on progression, attainment and retention rates, alongside the perceived need for a universal feedback template and the opportunity to provide audio-video feedback. This study adds to existing knowledge in the field of pedagogic practice about both the execution of LEGO® Serious Play® as a research methodology and why the perceptions of feedback as articulated and illuminated by a group of contemporary nursing students ought to matter in the context of Higher Education.



Ajibade, B. and Hayes, C. (2023), "An interpretive phenomenological analysis of nursing student perceptions of summative assessment feedback using LEGO® Serious Play®", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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