In the online class environment, students enjoy many advantages, such as increased scheduling flexibility, ability to balance work and school, classroom portability, and convenience. But there are potential shortcomings as well, including the lack of student-instructor interaction and a student not understanding the instructor’s expectations. A key mechanism to convey expectations while increasing student-instructor communication is relevant, timely, constructive, and balanced instructor feedback.
We appreciated reading Dr. Weimer’s article “Getting students to act on our feedback” (March 5, 2012). The solution proposed of asking students to identify three ways to improve their assignment based on instructor feedback is a great idea. We would like to offer a further solution that addresses students’ incorporating instructor feedback.
Constructive instructor feedback is essential for a students’ cognitive growth, and it is essential that constructive feedback be presented in a positive and encouraging manner. An appropriate technique, known to the authors as the sandwich approach, encourages learners while providing honest, open and direct critique. Online instructors, in particular, should serve virtual sandwiches to increase motivation and to bolster the achievement of their students. In its most rudimentary sense the virtual sandwich has three layers a top slice, the filling, and the bottom slice.
Do you pass back exams, a set of papers or grades on some other student project and offer generic comments on what the class did and didn’t do well on the assignment? Most of us do, and for good reasons. The feedback gives students the chance to compare their work with that done by the rest of class, which can build more accurate self-assessment skills.
Instructors need to be thoughtful and reflective about those strategies they use when they respond to students’ answers, and this is especially true when the answer given is wrong. Most of us understand that the stakes are high in this case. Students are easily intimidated. Even those not participating can be negatively affected by how an instructor handles incorrect answers. Some current philosophies of education argue against telling students that they are wrong. The thinking here is that students need to figure out for themselves if their answers are right or wrong. Instead of telling them, instructors should guide them to the right answers, possibly through some sort of Socratic dialogue…