By Amy Erickson
Feedback is a critical tool for online instructors. Without the face-to-face interaction of the classroom, instructors must rely on assignments and online discussions to gauge student comprehension.
Take a moment now and consider the feedback you give to students. How would you describe it? Have students or supervisors ever given you feedback on your feedback? You may be one of those instructor who prides themselves on giving heaps of feedback to students. If so, that is a great place to start. To make it even stronger, you can work on making your feedback more precise, instructive, and individualized.
Taking Your Feedback One Step Further
Dr. John Orlando (2016) discussed the similarities that should exist between teaching and coaching in his article “Improve Your Teaching with a Teaching Toolbox.” As a former NCAA Division I athletic coach, I appreciate this comparison. It made me think back to my years of coaching student-athletes who were learning how to perform Olympic lifts. These are complex, full-body exercises involving speed and strength that need to be executed with precision. If done improperly, the entire body is at risk.
Imagine if I just stood next to a student and simply told them they were performing the lift incorrectly. What good would that do? Compare that to a demonstration of a proper lift, coupled with feedback that their stance is too wide, which diminishes the amount of power that can be generated to move the weight. This kind of guidance both shows and tells the student-athlete how to modify subsequent repetitions as they attempt to master the exercise.
Instructors need to be similarly precise and instructive with feedback. If “vague thesis statement” is written in the margin, that is precise in terms of the error being committed, but not in terms of how to correct it. This is where “feedback banks” and “feed forward” strategies can help both instructors and students (Orlando, 2016, para. 11).
Feedback Banks and Feed Forward
Dr. Orlando reminds us that “both the craftsman and the coach teach in a one-to-one model that is not grade-based; rather, it is focused on identifying the pupil’s deficiencies and providing the instruction needed to address them” (para. 7).
With that in mind, let’s return to our previous example of precise, but not instructive feedback. Instead of writing “vague thesis statement,” consider how this feedback would feel to you as a student. (Imagine your name is Jane.)
Understandably, writing such feedback would be incredibly time consuming for instructors, but creating feedback banks allows you to save substantive, precise, and instructive feedback to use for future students. Dr. Orlando’s article includes a link to this helpful video that walks you through the process of creating a feedback bank using Quick Parts in Microsoft Word.
In the video “How Can I Use Technology to Create Custom, Automated Feedback?,” Dr. Mendernach demonstrates another way to create feedback banks by using Auto Text in Word. This video is available through the “Mentor Commons” section of the Magna Publications website.
What did the student get right?
When I was a coach, an older, wiser coach told me that negativity can impede the learning process. I mention this, because I believe students need to be told when they get something right. I’m certainly not suggesting that we be insincere in our student interactions, but I would recommend reminding students of their strengths. Imagine if the only feedback you received from your supervisor was negative. Would you stay?
If students get things right, tell them! Consider being emphatic, personal and inspiring about such feedback, too. “Great idea here, John! I really liked the way you fleshed out your discussion of Updike and Joyce with these scholarly articles. Fantastic!”
Can You Hear Me Now?
Dr. Orlando (2009) also has an interesting video in the Mentor Commons section of the Magna Publication website called “How Can I Use Voice Feedback to Enhance Student Learning?” The studies he presents therein demonstrate that students have a superior response to voice feedback.
Although it is no longer possible to insert voice commentary on Word documents, other tools exist such as Coby, Audacity, or Vocaroo if experimenting with vocal feedback interests you. If you use these tools or an older version of Word that allows you to insert voice comments, share your experiences in the comments section below.
Mandernach, B. (2013). How can I use technology to create custom automated feedback? [Webinar]. In Magna 20-Minute Mentor. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/online/mentor/how-can-i-use-technology-to-create-custom-automated-feedback-3221-1.html
Orlando, J. (2009). How can I use voice feedback to improve student learning? [Webinar]. In Magna 20-Minute Mentor. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/online/mentor/how-can-i-use-voice-feedback-to-improve-student-learning-3112-1.html
Orlando, J. (2016, September). Improving teaching with a teaching toolbox. Online Classroom. Retrieved September 8, 2016, from http://www.magnapubs.com/newsletter/online-classroom