Original Paper

Systemic Practice and Action Research

, 22:111

First online:

A Participatory Action Research Study on Handwritten Annotation Feedback and Its Impact on Staff and Students

  • Elaine BallAffiliated withSchool of Nursing, University of Salford Email author 

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Annotation was introduced to a United Kingdom (UK) School of Nursing following an institutional audit within a UK University. Handwritten annotation (writing in the margins of student assignments) was introduced to the grading procedure to enhance the quality of student feedback and learning. Once in practice, annotation could be examined and an action research study facilitated the process. Post-qualifying essay scripts were examined for styles of annotation to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Five staff participated in action research to examine staff perceptions of annotation. Findings showed that words or telegraphic signs that stand alone in the margins of a student essay can be seen as abstract signs to the novitiate reader and need contextualising. If there is a negative tone in the markers’ annotation it can be detected by the student and interpreted as unhelpful or disparaging. There are a number of ways of improving annotation, and good practice guidelines are offered in the conclusion to this paper.


Participatory action research Annotation Student feedback Transformative experience