Whole class feedback … you know, when the teacher returns a set of papers or exams and talks to the entire class about its performance, or the debriefing part of an activity where the teacher comments on how students completed the task. I don’t believe I have ever seen anything written about this feedback mechanism, even though I think most of us use it pretty regularly. Is it a good way to provide feedback? Do students pay any attention to feedback delivered in this way? When is whole class feedback most effective? After an exam? During group projects? Is it better to provide the feedback verbally or post it online? Should students be involved in this discussion of how well the class did or didn’t do?
Feedback is more than post-assignment commentary. When employed correctly, feedback can impact students on a variety of levels. It helps direct what they should do with their time, how they should feel about their efforts, whether their motivation level is appropriate, whether they are meeting expectations, and more.
Because feedback serves so many purposes in the online classroom, it is important for instructors to consider how feedback is provided, when it is offered, how it is focused or targeted, and what is considered in the feedback.
Providing efficient and effective feedback begins long before the first task is assigned to students. Instructors need to prioritize and schedule their time and then take advantage of specific technologies and tactics outlined in this report. When they do, they will find that their feedback does more to advance student learning and improve course outcomes than they ever imagined it could.
There are many ways to provide feedback to students in an online course. When selecting the type and frequency of feedback, consider what the students want and how they will benefit from it without creating an unreasonable amount of work for yourself. In an interview with Online Classroom, Rosemary Cleveland, professor of education, and Kim Kenward, instructional designer at Grand Valley State University, offered the following advice on how to manage feedback in the online learning environment:
This seminar focuses on maximizing the relevance of your courses and piquing students’ interest by adjusting your approach rather than dramatically changing course content. Specifically, you will learn how to use frequent needs assessments, techniques that heighten student engagement, and daily feedback to ensure that your students understand why course content is relevant to their degree programs, their lives, and that real world waiting for them after graduation.
Online Seminar • Recorded on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Here’s the conclusion of a small but intriguing study. Its findings reveal “only limited support for the idea that students actually do respond to feedback and make changes in a subsequent piece of assessable work consistent with the intentions that underlay the provided feedback.” (p. 577)
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 often wonder what we can do to help students engage with the material so they can learn it at a deeper level. Students don’t make that an easy task. They arrive in class having not read the material or having not thought about it in meaningful ways, and that keeps them from being engaged in class. Several years ago, I read George Kuh’s article “What Student Engagement Data Tell Us about College Readiness,” in which he writes, “Students who talk about substantive matters with faculty and peers are challenged to perform at high levels, and receive frequent feedback on their performance typically get better grades, are more satisfied with college, and are more likely to persist” (Peer Review, January 1, 2007, p. 4; italics mine). Here are three ways I try to provide feedback that engages students and not overwhelm myself with grading tasks in the process.
When it comes to helping online students learn, few practices pack the pedagogical punch of quality online feedback. But common practices in face-to-face and online feedback can undercut the basic goal of feedback, which is to help students understand, and learn from, their missteps and mistakes. Learn how to upgrade your online feedback, making it more specific, timely, and effective—in less time than you might spend grading one paper.
High-quality, individualized feedback is essential for effective online teaching, providing multiple benefits. Good online feedback strengthens your connection with students and keeps students engaged with your class. It can also take an extraordinary amount of time. However, since many of the same issues crop up semester after semester with student after student, it’s possible to collect your comments, store them in feedback banks, and use feedback technology to distribute individualized yet automated feedback.