The teacher gives regular and meaningful formative feedback.

Believe it or not, our students want frequent testing and feedback. Consider for a moment the “old school” method of teaching, where the only opportunities for feedback are a grade on a midterm and a final. Not only is that terribly stressful for students, but it leaves almost no opportunity for learning/improving from the testing. Here, a grade effectively ends the learning experience at its current level. What our feedback should instead do is guide students toward success rather than judge them or find fault. In this, it’s important to be regularly transparent about how students are doing and how they can improve, and improve and offer opportunities for them to do so. 

Offer frequent low-stakes assignments: Students will feel more efficacy and motivation when they succeed early and often. In place of (or in addition to) high stakes exams, use low stakes assessments (examples here and here) that help students learn in smaller doses. Fixing problems via feedback early in the semester will help students get on the right track before it’s too late. In other words, formative assessment and feedback contribute to positive summative assessment and feedback. 

Tips for Effective Feedback

Good feedback is prompt, specific, and encouraging. There are several things you can do to make your feedback better, and most of them will make your life easier!

  • Give feedback as soon as possible. Your students will not only be less frustrated, they’ll remember the feedback and perform better.  
  • Be specific; avoid generalizations like “good job,” or “needs improvement.” Instead, focus on what exactly worked and didn’t, and describe how the student can improve. Be sure to find something positive to say (sometimes we’re so busy justifying a grade that we forget to say a kind word). Then whenever possible, offer the chance for a redo. Seeing a grade ends learning; redoing an assignment IS learning. It also helps to remind students what this bit of information means in the big picture. 
  • Consider your context and tone. Feedback shouldn’t feel like control, or that students are being pitted against each other. It helps to simply explain how and why you give feedback the way you do.  
  • The more you involve students in the process of giving and taking feedback, the more invested they will feel. Giving them a voice in the process or criteria, using peer feedback, or creating ways to have students give you feedback can increase student investment. 
  • Focus on the behavior, and not the person. (e.g., “this sentence…” rather than “you said…”) 

A final note. Consider using multiple forms of feedback rather than hitting everything with the same hammer. Some means of feedback are more intimate and personal, others quicker and to the point. Ask students what they like! While many of us are used to written feedback, there are many options, e.g. (Fiock & Garcia):

  • Rubrics: online scoring guides are transparent and less prone to bias 
  • Annotations: notes or comments added digitally directly in Blackboard to essays and other assignments. 
  • Audio or Video: fast, more personal, less likely to be misinterpreted than writing. Video is also useful for nuanced or complicated feedback 
  • Peer review: online systems can save lots of time. 
  • Embedded comments and tracked changes: show your concerns and how to make changes in Microsoft Word.
  • Electronic surveys or live polling: a fast way to judge class understanding 
  • Automatic feedback: makes grading seamless. Contact YSU Instructional Design and Development Center to learn more!