One of the activities I most struggle with as an instructor of visual communications is getting students to give thoughtful and detailed critiques of their fellow students’ work. The critique process for students is challenging for several reasons.
1. Many of them are new to the concepts, theories, and language of design, so they don’t necessarily know what to say or how to say it.
2. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so they are weary of expressing dislike for another’s design choices.
3. They are terrified by what others may say about their work, so they don’t say anything about anyone else’s.
4. Some simply will not care or have an opinion. As an educator, this is the most frustrating group because I have yet to find a way to combat this level apathy.
It’s that time of the year when end-of-course ratings and student comments are collected. When the feedback arrives, the quality often disappoints—and if the feedback is collected online, fewer students even bother to respond. Most of the comments are dashed off half thoughts, difficult to decipher. Complaints aren’t accompanied with constructive suggestions. Yes, some do say really nice things, but others sound off with pretty awful comments. However, I don’t think students are entirely at fault here.
Understanding learners’ experiences in the online classroom can help you improve your courses for current and future students and help build a strong learning community. Jill Schiefelbein, owner of Impromptu Guru, a company focused on helping individuals and groups improve communication in both face-to-face and online environments, recommends using a reciprocal feedback process to elicit this valuable information from students.
I always hesitate to do posts on student ratings. Every teacher has opinions, a lot of which aren’t supported by the research. But this post is on a topic about which there is little disagreement. Students don’t take the process all that seriously, especially now that they complete rating forms online. Few take the time to provide teachers with quality feedback. They mark the rating boxes quickly and dash off a few poorly worded comments. Most of the time it’s not a process that benefits teachers or students, which is sad because it could be an experience with learning potential for both.
Feedback is often given to students after the fact. After they completed their assignments, and after they turned in their exams. Likewise, faculty receive feedback from students in much the same fashion. After a paper is late because they didn’t know how to submit it electronically, after they dug a grading hole that will be difficult to climb out of, or after the course has ended.
Students know that in any online course assignments will be required, and students expect the online educator to read the assignments and give feedback that can help them improve their understanding of the subject and improve grades on future assignments in the course. All instructors give feedback—but there is an approach to grading assignments that is merely okay, and another that involves grading mini lessons in the subject matter while also motivating the students to do better. It is this latter approach that must be practiced so that the student can do the maximum learning in the online environment.
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.
I’m still pondering why students don’t make better use of the feedback we provide on papers, projects, presentations, even the whole class feedback we offer after we’ve graded a set of exams. Yes, we do see improvement as we look back across a course, but we also see a lot of the same errors repeated throughout the course.
It wouldn’t be the end of the year without a few top 10 lists, but this year we’re taking it one step further with the top 11 articles of 2011. Each article’s popularity ranking is based on a combination of the number of comments and shares, e-newsletter open and click-thru rates, and other reader engagement metrics.
Professors teach in a vacuum; we enter the classroom, deliver our lessons, and leave, and rarely get any feedback on the quality of our instruction before the end of the semester when formal faculty evaluations are completed by students. Other than grades on tests and other assessments, we really don’t know for sure if students are learning what we are teaching, and we often don’t have a good handle on whether our instruction is working.