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Providing and Receiving Feedback

Grant Wiggins describes feedback as 'information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal' (2012, p. 11).   Providing and requesting feedback are two important practices in any educational context.  In this section, tips and considerations are shared for both providing and receiving useful feedback. 

Providing Effective Feedback 

Providing effective feedback is a skill that takes practice to develop.  It can be easy to fall into the habit of providing vague commentary on student work that does not give much insight into what steps can be taken next ('Good work', for example).  Wiggins (2012) identifies seven characteristics of effective feedback that can serve as useful guidelines (pp. 13-16): 

  • Two individuals at a table with a paper of written work. Two laptops are also on the table. Faces are not displayed though it appears that the people are in conversation.Goal referenced - effective feedback is directly related to a goal and whether the individual is 'on track' in achieving that goal.
  • Tangible and transparent - learners need to be clear on what the specific goals of a task are as well as the indicators of success.
  • Actionable - effective feedback includes realistic steps that the individual can follow in order to improve their performance.
  • User-friendly - feedback should be communicated in a manner that can be understood by the person who is receiving it. Furthermore, it should not be so plentiful that it is overwhelming.  Too much feedback can be ineffective, as can feedback that is overly complicated.
  • Timely - Wiggins makes the note that feedback should be 'timely' though not necessarily 'immediate.'  The learner should be given time to complete the task and process the experience.  That said, feedback is most effective when it is provided sooner rather than later, so it can be applied.
  • Ongoing - frequent opportunities to receive and apply feedback are beneficial to learning. 
  • Consistent - conflicting feedback causes confusion.  In order to promote consistency in the feedback that is provided, all student work can be reviewed as a whole and detailed rubrics and guidelines can be used. 

The methods used to provide feedback can vary.  You can be creative in the ways that opportunities for feedback are built into your course.  Examples are as follows: 

  • Audio feedback - Turnitin’s voice notes and other free software, such as Audacity and Kaltura, can be used to provide more personalized feedback on student work. This is becoming a more popular option amongst instructors at UOIT.
  • Video feedback - Tools like Kaltura’s CaptureSpace recorder and Camtasia can be used to provide either individualized feedback or a summary of feedback for an entire class. This is especially useful in online classes or large classes where time to provide detailed individualized feedback is limited.
  • Rubrics - Interactive rubrics within the learning management system can be used to select from a list of criteria and indicators of performance and add additional personalized feedback.  This can also be done more manually with Word or PDF versions that can be highlighted and submitted to students with their work.  It is ideal to allow students to see rubrics before they have submitted their work. 
  • Peer feedback - Providing students opportunities to practice providing feedback is another option. This can be done manually or you can consider using tools such as the Turnitin PeerMark assignment type (available within Blackboard) or the Blackboard Self and Peer Assessment tool. Discussing qualities of effective feedback and providing exemplars are good strategies to follow before sending students on their way to give others feedback. In some cases, a grade might be provided for the quality of feedback given.

Collecting Teaching Feedback

The following tips are a summary of those provided in the November 2014 issue of Speaking of Learning on collecting feedback:

  • Speech bubble with question to symbolize questions and ideas.Determine the questions you would like to ask - it is recommended to narrow it down to a few key questions so students rather than include a large number of questions which student may not take the time to answer and you may not have the time to analyze. The stop/start/continue method is one example: What is one thing I should start doing? What is one thing I should stop doing? What is one thing I should continue doing?  If you have more specific questions regarding certain aspects of your course, including teaching strategies that are used, you might also address those in your questions.
  • Choose a way to collect feedback - there a number of ways to collect feedback: anonymous online surveys (in the LMS, Google Forms or Survey Monkey, as examples), index cards, paper-based surveys and sticky notes, as examples. Allowing students to respond anonymously is recommended as they may be uncomfortable providing honest feedback about the course or your teaching methods if responses are linked to names.
  • Pick an appropriate time to ask for feedback - Keane (2005) warns of the possibility of ‘feedback fatigue.’ Select a few key moments to request feedback. After students have settled into the course is an ideal time, as there is still time to make adjustments. Based on the specific areas in which you are hoping to receive feedback, you might choose other times to request teaching feedback or feedback about the course as a whole.
  • Talk to students about the qualities of effective feedback - the ability to provide tactful, constructive feedback is a skill that can take time to develop. It is important to talk to your students about what constitutes effective feedback before requesting that they provide it. Giving examples of poor and effective feedback can be helpful.
  • Take the time to reflect on the feedback you receive - it is important to demonstrate that you have taken the feedback you received into consideration and are willing to make changes where appropriate. One strategy is to summarize the feedback that was received and explain how you can or cannot address the suggestions that were made. For example, you may not be able to make certain changes if they relate to details that are included on the course outline, will comprise your ability to be fair to all students, or are directly related to university policy.

Requesting a Classroom Observation

Classroom observations from individuals who are external to the course can also be helpful. If you are interested in having an educational developer from the Teaching and Learning Centre visit your class, please contact us.  We can meet with you to discuss your class, teaching philosophy, any challenges you are encountering in the course and areas in which you are hoping to receive feedback.  We respect confidentiality and are here to support members of the teaching community in this way.  You might also consider asking a peer to observe one of your classes to provide you with feedback.  The Teaching Squares program serves as another opportunity to not only welcome peers to attend one of your classes but also gain the experience of attending a few classes as an observer.  Feedback is only provided from peers in the Teaching Squares program, if you choose to request it.

References 

Keane, E. (2005, April). Obtaining student feedback on teaching and course quality. Retrieved from: http://www.nuigalway.ie/celt/documents/evaluation_ofteaching.pdf

Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1). Retrieved from: http://uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rch&AN=82055856&scope=site

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