It is vital to provide valuable, effective feedback to students in order to improve the learning process. Students must know not only if they got the correct answer or not, but also how to get there. This will help them to master the material. While feedback is essential, instructors may limit or skip this step due time constraints or large class sizes. We asked our faculty to share their strategies and tips for giving students effective feedback.
Different approaches to feedback
You must consider the learning style and progress of students when giving feedback.
Automated Feedback in WebAssign
Scott Crawford, Texas A&M University’s instructor, teaches large courses with hundreds of students. These instructors claim personalized feedback is nearly impossible. Professor Crawford instead uses WebAssign to provide support for students.
WebAssign provides automated feedback that is embedded into questions. It may come in the form learning support, hints, or detailed solutions, depending on your course title. Master It tutorials, a learning support tool that allows students to walk through the steps to find the right answer, allow them to do so by using the Master It tutorials. Students can then view the assignment’s answer key and find solutions for each problem if they have not received their assignment by the due date.
WebAssign gives students the ability to instantly see if they are correct or wrong, and allows them to make corrections. They can also “try another problem”, which allows them to practice with different numbers and has a solution box that will guide them through the answer. – Scott Crawford, Texas A&M University
If automated feedback is not available or you intend to provide additional feedback to students you will need to determine what type of feedback they require to succeed.
One instructor breaks down feedback into three core parts: What went well, where was it lacking and how can we improve. They encourage students to discuss the feedback and ask questions.
Wendiann Sethi, Seton Hall University, approaches feedback by helping students to identify their mistakes and letting them know when the process is correct. Melissa Reid, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, goes further and tailors her feedback to each student based on their learning style and individual needs.
“Every student has different learning styles and needs, so I tailor my responses to each student’s needs.” Some students prefer that I create videos that walk through a concept or solve a problem. Others prefer that I write the steps with explanations.” – Melissa Reid from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
Feedback: The Time and Place
Once you have identified the feedback you want to give students, you will need to create a plan for how and when to communicate that message to them effectively.
Timing of feedback
The faculty consensus was unanimous that feedback should be given at all times. Consistent feedback, including constructive and positive sentiments, is a great way to motivate and guide students through the material.
Each week, one instructor sends personalized emails that let students know how they are doing. You may not have the time to do this if you are teaching a large class. You could limit your feedback, as Wendiann sethi does. Professor Sethi gives feedback on students’ periodic tests and quizzes using the time-saving tips below. Students can use this feedback and these materials as study aids for future exams.
Our faculty partners agree that feedback should be given within the assignment in which the error occurred. This allows students to see the feedback in context and can then apply it to future assignments.
Many instructors include feedback in graded assignments. One faculty member suggested that students be given feedback in the assignment. This would allow them to revise and submit again. This allows students to focus on learning and not on grading.
While it is logical to give feedback to students at the exact moment the error occurred, Hal Kingsley, SUNY Buffalo State, has found that students are more open to receiving feedback in person than when it is given online. Others agree with this recommendation. You should encourage students to contact you via email or office hours for further feedback. This is also a great way to help students.