It’s difficult to overstate the importance of feedback in the learning process. Study after study shows that providing students with quality feedback is one of the most important factors in enhancing achievement.
Instructors: you need to get this right.
The challenge when providing feedback to students is making sure every student receives timely, structured, and easily accessible feedback. Scribbling notes on a hard-copy essay, leaving a flurry of comments in a Google Doc, or writing train-of-thought responses in an email isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Instructors should standardize their feedback criteria and process to provide useful feedback that students need to thrive. To do this, we’ve put together an easy Eduflow template that you can use to collect and assess student’s work.
Characteristics of Effective Feedback
Giving poor quality feedback can sometimes be more harmful than no feedback at all. Comments that are too sparse, too vague, or too critical can confuse or discourage students.
Here are some essential factors when providing feedback to students.
Feedback needs to be promptly delivered so that students have time to digest your comments and apply them to future assignments.
Feedback delivered weeks or months after the fact is so far disconnected from the original assignment that the student may have difficulty remembering why they made the decisions they did. The more time that passes, the further removed students become from the assignment. They may not even read your comments.
A week turnaround time would be ideal, but at the very least, feedback must come in time for students to apply the instructor's comments toward the next assignment. If the student hasn't received feedback on prior work, they will likely make the same mistakes a second time. Afterward, they may feel resentful of the assignment or feel frustrated.
If you can't physically provide feedback to all of your students between assignments, it may be time to bring in outside help. That could mean a teaching assistant if the resource is available. If not, consider switching to a peer-review model, where students review each other's work.
Negative feedback can be painful to hear, but providing feedback to students that is phrased in a constructive manner may be easier for them to process.
Sweeping negative feedback doesn’t just hurt student’s feelings; it discourages them from trying harder. It’s also not particularly helpful for students who do want to improve.
While it may still be critical, constructive feedback gives students a road map for improving performance. Constructive comments are:
- Backed up by reasoning: Instead of saying, “This is a terrible conclusion,” say, “This conclusion is weak because...”
- Observational: Instead of saying, “You clearly don’t know how to use commas,” say “You’re misusing commas in this section.”
- A balance of positive and negative feedback: Instead of merely commenting on where students can improve, also comment on areas where they did well, even if it’s as minute as “This is a nice sentence.”
- Specific: Instead of saying, “This piece is unfocused,” point out exactly where the piece goes off the rails.
Provide students with feedback that helps them learn to self-correct so they can create better work in the future.
Feedback can be constructive whether it’s formative (given to improve performance over time) or summative (given at the end of a course). The ultimate goal is not for students to learn how to pass the course; it’s to build their skills and produce high-quality work. Constructive advice helps them to keep improving even after the term ends.
Feedback should be written in clear language and be kept in a place where students can reference it when needed.
To give clear, logical feedback, consider using a rubric for assessment. By following a rubric, you can leave standardized and precise feedback for each student. Because they will also have access to the rubric, they can follow your logic to understand their grade better.
It’s also a good idea to keep assignments and feedback on file where students can easily access them throughout the course’s life.
Best Practices for Providing Feedback to Students
The carefully crafted feedback you provide to students will be even more impactful if you carefully plan out how to incorporate it into your course.
Assess The Purpose of the Assignment
As mentioned above, create a rubric to establish exactly how you will evaluate the assignment.
What you include in the rubric will depend on your goals for the assignment. Do you intend to measure knowledge (for example, understanding of the forces that led to the Civil War), skills (e.g., the ability to write a persuasive essay), or both?
Layout the critical pieces of information you expect the students to understand. If you’re assessing skills, define what constitutes mastery. If you’re grading the assignment for a numerical or letter grade, consider creating scales in your rubric, where you rank mastery between 1 and 5. A defined scale will bring a level of objectivity to the grading process.
Clarify what good performance looks like
Students deserve to know how you will evaluate their work. This information helps them meet expectations for quality and content.
Once you’ve created a rubric, share it with your students and discuss what you will be looking for as you assess their work. If possible, consider providing examples of stellar past work.
Give Students Room to Reflect and Respond
Once they’ve received their feedback, allow students to reflect and respond to that criticism. The goal isn’t to encourage students to challenge your grading (although they might); it’s to inspire them to read and process the feedback you worked hard to give.
One way to do this is to create a reflection assignment. After receiving their feedback, require students to respond using another simple rubric. Ask them to answer questions like, “What went right with this assignment?” and “What will I focus on improving next time?”.
Our Three-Step Instructor Review Template
Our instructor review template is an easy, standardized way to collect student’s work and return feedback. It has just three steps and can be customized to reflect the assignment’s requirements.
Students Submit Their Work
Students submit their work using the Eduflow interface. An electronic standardized submission process eliminates the possibility of papers going missing and keeps them all in one easily accessible spot.
On Eduflow’s back end, instructors can set deadlines and dictate what types of files are acceptable for upload. They can also decide whether students are allowed to edit their work after submission or not. These permissions all contribute to a smoother submission process with clear guidelines and less back-and-forth.
Instructors Review assignments
Instructors receive the assignments and complete their review.
The instructor can attach a feedback rubric for use while reviewing. This way, even if there are multiple reviewers (like teaching assistants), the feedback will follow the same format and guidelines.
This section of the workflow is not visible to students. You have the option of returning reviews piecemeal, as they are finished, or setting a set time when all reviews are released.
Eduflow notifies students that they have feedback waiting. The reviewee then has an opportunity to reflect and respond to the reviewer's comments.
You can upload a reflection rubric to help guide the students as they digest your feedback.
Inspire Students to Aim Higher
If you put processes in place to create a more effective feedback process, you can give students the tools they need to pass the class and produce higher-quality work.
But the benefits don’t just stop there. Good quality, nuanced feedback transcends the program you are currently teaching. You’re giving students writing and analysis tools that they will carry with them long after your course has ended.
Want to take our feedback flow for a trial run? Acces our template here.