Efficient and effective feedback workshop

2 February 2019

Although winter break workshops seem like they occurred many lifetimes ago, reviewing my notes this week I was reminded of all the great conversations and ideas shared at the various workshops. The LTC and CELT (Committee for Effective Learning with Technology) collaborated on a workshop about ways to provide feedback that is helpful for students without creating an unmanageable workload for faculty members.

While written feedback on papers is what often comes to mind when someone mentions feedback, the workshop kicked off with a panel discussion by Bob Carlson (PEAR), Fred Hagstrom (Studio Art), Marty Baylor (Physics), and Susannah Ottaway (History). For Bob and Fred, much of the feedback that they give students is given orally during class or practice. In such situations, there isn’t any delay in the students getting feedback on what they are doing. How might we be able to structure other teaching and learning environments to provide that same immediate feedback? We didn’t answer that question, but the workshop provided an opportunity to hear about the variety of different approaches faculty take.

In spite of the variety of ways to provide feedback, effective feedback usually has three elements. It contains clarity about goals, responds to progress being made towards goals, and suggests how to make better progress towards goals. For assignments that will be used more than once, developing a rubric is usually time-saving in the long run, although the initial rubric development can be quite time intensive. Rubrics also help students identify the important aspects of an assignment. Hence, rubrics serve the dual purpose of clarifying goals and making it quicker for the instructor to respond to the progress towards meeting those goals. George Cusack (Director of WAC) provided an excellent discussion of different types of rubrics that one might choose to employ, depending on context. In particular, if you are a faculty member who worries that rubrics tend to make students too focused on earning points for particular aspects of an assignment, there are many options for holistic rubrics.

A second panel of faculty shared the tech tools that they use to enhance the feedback that they give to students. Kim Hyunh (Chemistry) shared how she used Kahoot! for quizzing at the start of each class — both to gauge basic understanding and for a quick emotional check-in. Polling (via phone apps or via clickers), minute papers, and online quizzing are low-stakes ways to help students check their understanding, and these approaches give the faculty member a quick snapshot of where students might be struggling. Vera Coleman (Spanish) highlighted how Language Lesson, a module in Moodle, creates new ways to provide students feedback on their Spanish pronunciation. Sandra Rousseau (French and Francophone Studies) talked about her approach to having students to submit writing assignments through Google Docs, allowing for more interactive conversations between her and her students via the comment feature of Google Docs. Instead of providing feedback via writing, Clara Hardy (Classics) shared her use of recorded oral feedback to students. My takeaway from this panel was that technology opens up new avenues for giving feedback, some of which are time saving and some of which do not increase efficiency but allow for richer feedback than more traditional approaches.

As a reminder, the LTC document with suggestions for feedback can be found here. And the bibliography below provides some further reading.

Feedback — General

  • Ambrose, S.A, Bridges, M.W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M.C., Norman, M.K. (2010).  What Kinds of Practice and Feedback Enhance Learning. In How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (pp. 121-152). Jossey-Bass.
  • Bean, J. (2011). Reading, Commenting On, and Grading Student Writing. In Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (pp. 267-336). Jossey-Bass.
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.
  • Lang, J.M. (2016). Practicing. In Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (pp. 113-136). Jossey-Bass.
  • Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Stylus Publishing.

Feedback to support particular populations of students

  • Gabriel, K.F. (2008). Interweaving Assessment and Teaching. In Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education (pp. 87-102). Stylus Publishing.
  • Verschelden, C. (2017). Growth Mindset. In Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization (pp. 61-71). Stylus Publishing.
  • Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Williams, M.E., & Cohen, G. L. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 804-824.