As instructors we have our greatest impact on learning through feedback (Ching et al., 2015). As teachers our feedback provides students with a “knowledge of results” (Flemin and Levine, 1978). When you communicate to students on how they have demonstrated growth following an assessment or task you allow them to self-reflect on progress, address lingering misconceptions, and set new learning goals (Black & William, 2016; Price, 1997).
We know feedback drives learning (Azevedo & Bernard, 1995; Hattie, 2011; Shute, 2007). In it’s most basic form feedback should, “(a) verify whether the student’s answer is right or wrong and (b) provide information to the learner about the correct response” (Shute, 2007, p.8). Yet we also know proving students with positive an actionable feedback beyond their answer extends learning by requiring metacognition, or making the student think about how they think (Swan, 1983). This type of goal directed feedback improves motivation to learn (Dempsey et al., 1993) and encourages a Growth Mindset (Dweck ,1986).
In our online classes you need to not only ensure your feedback is effective, but you need to also help students to use the feedback. Luckily there are new technological tools that increase the efficacy and efficiency of a well designed feedback loop (Gee, 2017).
Feedback improves learning (Dweck, 2007; Hattie, 2011) and in our online classes the growth statements we give to students effect both motivation and community (Northrup, 2011).If students feel you do not read your posts or that their work is not valued they will not utilize the information for personal growth. As teachers we need to ensure we provide timely and actionable, feedback.
Frequent and immediate feedback has the greatest effect on learning (Fink 2013). When examining the effect sizes of automated quizzes those that provide students feedback immediately have shown to improve learning when compared to delayed feedback (Northrup, 2011). The same is true of your written feedback. The sooner students get feedback the sooner they can make connections to content and develop personal learning goals. In fact getting frequent feedback early in the first two weeks helps to ensure students excel in your class (Conrad & Donalson, 2012; Rovai, 2002)
Feedback also needs to be targeted, which means it is focused on improvement driven from your stated learning objectives. Students then use the information in a process centered (Coffied et al., 2014) way to learn through reflection. By having students use growth statements as they think about revisions, goals and progress they make knowledge gains toward your stated learning objectives.
Finally students need to use feedback. Therefore as an instructor you must make your growth statements actionable. This means focusing language on goals and not the students (Shute, 2007). The student did not “miss a question” they did not demonstrate mastery of the concept. Explain to the students what they need to do in order to succeed next time. Emphasize the goal for the next time they need to apply the concept or allow revision (Duncan, 2007).
The positive language of your growth statements matter (Dweck, 2007). Research has consistently found non-punitive and positive messages lead to learning gains. In fact without you providing praise to how students are progressing and not including steps they can take to meet goal or take their learning to the next level students may not know they are growing (Coffield, et a., 2014)