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.
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I have a confession to make. I was wrong. You see, I once thought that teaching was lecturing, and I thought that because that is how my graduate mentors taught me to teach.
But I was wrong. Studies have shown that lecturing has little to do with teaching. A University of Maryland study found that right after a physics lecture, almost none of the students could answer the question: “What was the lecture you just heard about?” Another physics professor simply asked students about the material that he had presented only 15 minutes earlier, and he found that only ten percent showed any sign of remembering it (Freedman, 2012).
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)
One of the big challenges of teaching an online course is managing workload while providing the support and feedback that is essential to student success. A good way to become more efficient is to build an archive of grading comments to reduce the time it takes to provide feedback on assignments. By creating an archive, an instructor could insert a comment such as the following with a single keystroke:
Sometimes feedback leads to better performance, but not all the time and not as often as teachers would like, given the time and effort they devote to providing students feedback. It’s easy to blame students who seem interested only in the grade—do they even read the feedback? Most report that they do, but even those who pay attention to it don’t seem able to act on it—they make the same errors in subsequent assignments. Why is that?
Online instructors are being asked to accommodate an increasing number of students in their courses. The challenge is to manage the workload associated with these high-enrollment courses. Susan Fein, eLearning consultant/instructional designer at Washington State University, offered some advice on how to do this.
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 hope you won’t stop reading once you find out the idea being proposed here involves automating the feedback provided students on papers, projects, and presentations. If you were to look at a graded set of papers and make a list of the comments offered as feedback, how many of those comments have you written more than once? Is the answer many? If so, you should read on.
How many times have you provided feedback in the margins of students’ papers, only to find that you’re providing the very same feedback on the next set of papers? As a new faculty member, I was left dumbfounded by this experience. I couldn’t understand why my students continuously made the same errors and why my feedback did not improve their papers. I was also surprised by the number of students who requested meetings to discuss why they felt their papers warranted a higher grade. My colleagues assured me that I wasn’t alone in these experiences, but I knew there had to be alternatives to this unproductive cycle.
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.