Teaching Toolbox: Giving Feedback That Supports Students

24 September 2018

Last week’s LTC lunch discussion considered how to provide feedback that supports students without taking too much faculty time. Although the focus was on feedback, immediately grades entered the conversation. Many students come to college from high schools that provide dashboards that are updated daily showing students their grades. For students who are familiar with evaluating their progress via real-time quantitative updates on work completed, the transition to college where each faculty member has a different approach to evaluating work and providing feedback requires some adjustment. The group discussed the importance of helping students recognize that feedback is something different than a grade, and feedback is often more valuable in terms of long term growth and learning than a grade. Yet faculty can’t ignore that grades are important to students because course grades may impact eligibility for scholarships, auto insurance discounts, etc. Particularly in Argument & Inquiry Seminars, faculty should consider helping students understand how to be intentional about receiving and working with feedback in their courses.

Feedback early in a course is important, and faculty shared several approaches to doing this that didn’t connect feedback with grades. For example, providing a number of small, low stakes assignments early in a course is one way to provide students feedback without taking a lot of faculty time to grade. Using a rubric to quickly provide feedback on written work without assigning a grade is another way to help students separate grades from feedback and focus on how they can use feedback to improve their work going forward.

While much of the focus was on written work, the topic of providing feedback on class participation did come up in some of the table discussions. If class participation is a significant portion of a class grade, then being clear about how participation will be evaluated and providing feedback on students’ participation throughout the term is important.

The LTC is putting together a brief resource on effective feedback that will be housed on the LTC website. A draft version is here. If you have suggestions for how to improve this, leave a comment on this post or e-mail me directly with suggestions.