We are bombarded daily with notifications and alerts in a variety of forms from all aspects of our life. We receive texts, emails, and phone call alerts, notifications about upcoming sales or events, as well as notifications within apps and on social media. For better or worse, we’ve come to expect these types of notifications to provide instant feedback and information. And the truth is our students have come to expect a similar type of immediate feedback in a class as well.
Instant feedback isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Providing relevant feedback can be a key way to help students stay on track to achieve the learning objectives for the course. In truth, many students come into courses with a lot of anxiety or stress and providing feedback can not only help correct students but calm student nerves and confirm they're on track. Balancing an instructor’s workload with the desire to give helpful feedback isn’t easy, so here are some effective ways to consider adding in additional feedback for students:
Instant Feedback Through Automatically Graded Assignments
Using automatically graded assignments is a great option to provide instant feedback for students. While these should not be the only types of assignments within a course, they will buy the instructor some time while others, usually more complicated assignments, are being graded. Use these types of assignments so that students do not have to wait to see at least some of their progress in the course.
Feedback should come in a variety of forms and from various sources. One of the best ways to elicit helpful feedback is to get it from other students. Consider group assignments, discussions, or peer reviews of assignment drafts as great ways to solicit feedback.
Using a Rubric
Grading with a rubric will not only save time but also provide grading consistency for subjective content/assignments. One important step, though, is students should be able to view the rubric before with the assignment instructions to understand how they’re being assessed. Make sure to also allow students to have access to the rubric after the assignment has been graded; this will allow them to see where the points were deducted.
Traditional instructor feedback (comments, margin notes, written feedback, etc.) can be the most time consuming but often the most effective information for student learning. Depending on the size and duration of the class, detailed instructor feedback should be provided several times throughout the course. If you teach a larger class try to concentrate this type of feedback to larger assignments, particularly those given early in the semester, for maximum effectiveness. You can also vary the depth of your feedback to simple comments on a paper or something more detailed like short, individual meetings with students about their work.
Overall feedback, as opposed to individual assignment feedback, can be very helpful for students who are trying to assess their overall progress in the course. Consider giving personalized progress reports or updates at certain intervals throughout the course. Frequency can range from a few times a semester (once early in the semester and once at the midpoint should be considered the minimum) to weekly for some cases. Even your A students can benefit; after all, positive feedback is just as necessary critiquing feedback at showing how students are doing.
Relevant and timely feedback is essential in any course. Types of feedback can be spread out and even scheduled so that it is not all-consuming. While the responsibility for completing assignments lies with the student, having an intentional instructor gently guiding them through the use of feedback will set them up for success.