The effect of Skinny Cow Condition on first-year students’ expectations of assessment and feedback

Marike Annandale, Elizabeth Maryna Reyneke


De Beer and Gravett (2016: 46) sound the alarm that most first-year students who report for teacher training at tertiary institutions in South Africa emerge from an examination-driven system and are unable to engage with self-directed learning (SDL). This is disconcerting since students of the 21st century who enrol for university studies across the world are expected to be self-directed, taking responsibility for their own academic progress while focusing on active rather than passive learning (Nasri, 2017: 1). The English for Education course at the North-West University in South Africa requires students to be critically engaged as they direct their own learning. However, the high dropout rate (North-West University, 2018) of the first-year English for Education students (around 25% per annum over the last three years) and the average drop in their English marks from high school to university suggest that students find it difficult to adapt to the demands of tertiary studies. This paper reports on a study that focused on the teaching, learning and assessment gaps between secondary and tertiary education and which aimed at developing a framework to promote SDL in first-year English for Education studies. The findings illustrated that students felt frustrated by lecturer feedback on assignments that demanded active engagement and critical thinking. It became clear that students were unable to interpret feedback and that they felt unsupported if the lecturer did not show and tell them exactly what to write or would not supply them with detailed answers to memorise and reproduce.


Assessment; Feedback; Self-directed learning; Higher education; First-year students

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Per Linguam

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by since 2011.


(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help