Giving Students Feedback
In their seminal piece 7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, Chickering and Gamson (1987) include timely feedback from the instructor as one of several conditions for successful learning experiences. By giving regular, detailed, thoughtful observations about the quality of students' work, instructors convey their presence. Students use feedback to gauge what they did well and what they did not do well. With clear feedback, students can learn how to enhance their performance. There are several elements of good feedback.
Set clear expectations
If students know when to expect feedback and what type of feedback to expect, they can plan accordingly.
Give feedback that is timely
If students see that we invest time in their work by making thoughtful and prompt comments and suggestions for improvement, they will be more motivated to do high quality work. Particularly at the beginning of the semester, it is important to give timely feedback so that students understand the instructor’s expectations.
Give feedback that is friendly in tone
Begin with genuine observations about what students did well to offer encouragement. Then, use sensitive language and point out areas for improvement. Starting with criticism can shut students down or offend them and then they may not use the feedback.
Share examples of student work
Give students a model to refer to as a point of reference to help direct their attention to important elements of the assignment.
Be conscientious about the amount of feedback offered
Select a few areas to focus on and be explicit about what changes to make. Giving too much feedback can drain our energy and overwhelm students.
Deliver feedback via audio or video tools
When students receive audio or video feedback on assignments, they get a more personal response from the instructor and a better sense of the instructor’s presence. Visit ITRS to see what tools to use to provide audio or video feedback.
What are rubrics and why are they important?
Using rubrics is one way to provide feedback. Rubrics show the criteria for grading and success on assignments. Rubrics describe the:
- areas of performance that will be evaluated in an assignment
- standards of performance and quality associated with each area
- score for each area of performance
The American Association of Colleges and Universities provides multiple sample rubrics available for download.
How do students and instructors benefit from rubrics?
Students and instructors both benefit from the use of rubrics.
- Grade more efficiently and objectively. If we know the standards of quality and types of skills we are looking for before we start grading, we can grade more quickly and objectively since we are grading all students using the same standards. Using rubrics deters grade disputes since students see how they are graded.
- Confirm alignment between learning outcomes and assessment. When the learning outcomes inform the content of the rubric, then the assessment is likely to align with the learning outcomes.
- Make improvements on future assessments. Grading with rubrics reveals areas where students did well or need help. Students can use the comments in the rubric to make improvements on future assignments
- Make improvements on teaching and course design. If multiple students do poorly on part of the rubric, then we have data that indicates we may want to revisit the assessment and structure it in a way that makes it easier for students to succeed.
Recommended practices for using rubrics
To maximize the advantages of using rubrics, use these recommended practices.
- Post the rubric with the assignment to show benchmarks students need to hit. Students can reference the rubric as they do the assignment to make sure they meet all of the requirements.
- Ask students what they think about the rubric. Feedback on the rubric may help instructors make adjustments if necessary.
- Ask students to self-evaluate and use rubrics to grade their own papers. When students use the rubrics to grade their own work, they develop self-assessment skills.
- Ask students to create the rubric. When students create the rubric, they tend to buy into what they are being graded on and how they are being graded.
- Kelly, R. (2014). Feedback Strategies for Online Courses. Retrieved from Faculty Focus.
- Orlando, J. (2015). How to Give Your Students Better Feedback in Less Time. Retrieved from Faculty Focus.
- Osika, E. (2009.). Assessing Student Learning Online: It’s More Than Multiple Choice. Retrieved from Faculty Focus.
- Peery, T. & Veneruso, S. (2012). Balancing Act: Managing Instructor Presence and Workload When Creating an Interactive Community of Learners Retrieved from Faculty Focus.
- Smith, V. & Palenque, S. (2015) Ten Tips for More Efficient and Effective Grading. Retrieved from Faculty Focus.
- Wiggins, G. (2017). 7 Key Characteristics of Better Learning Feedback. Retrieved from Teach Thought.