Imagine taking a class and submitting assignment after assignment without hearing clear feedback from your teacher, or even worse, no feedback? Wouldn't this frustrate you? Wouldn't you feel a sense of confusion over your progress in the course? Feedback is the cornerstone of student learning. Students rely on the information provided by their teacher to reevaluate their work and improve upon it.
Effective feedback includes communicating information to students, based on the learning task that helps the student reflect on the information, construct self-knowledge relevant to learning, and set further learning goals. It allows students to monitor their progress, consider alternate learning methods, and discover their learning needs (Bonnel, 2008).
Why Formative and Summative Feedback Matters
Both types of feedback are important in order for students to learn at a deeper level. So how and when do you give these types of feedback?
Formative feedback is useful for monitoring student progress during the learning process (Fiock & Garcia, 2019). This feedback style promotes and measures student knowledge as well as skills—assisting students to better understand where they can best improve. Formative feedback can also increase student motivation, helping students in becoming self-directed learners (Teaching@Tufts, n.d.). One example could be creating smaller assignments for students which lead up to the semester's final research paper.
Summative feedback is useful for evaluating whether students have learned the subject matter at the end of a lesson. An example would be the final grade of that research paper (Fiock & Garcia, 2019).
How to Give Effective Feedback
Feedback should be constructive, specific and actionable. Be mindful of the difference between feedback and criticism. Criticism involves judgement and faultfinding, feedback is meant to be evaluative and corrective. Criticizing a student by telling them they did something wrong, without offering any means to improve, only serves to leave the student feeling directionless and confused (Fiock and Garcia, 2019). An example of criticism, coming from a dance teacher, would be “Your spins are weak.” An example of feedback would be “I’ve noticed that you keep losing your balance when you spin. Make sure that you are tucking in your pelvis, engaging your abdominal muscles, and that you are focusing your eyes on a set spot while turning.” The first example gives no direction on how the student can improve, but the latter lays out a detailed direction on what they can do to correct themself.
Create varied and multiple opportunities for students to receive feedback. Diversifying how the students receive feedback and making sure that they’re receiving it often, allows for students to maximize their learning in a course. You can allow for different assignment types such as self-reflection, peer-review, automated responses, and more (Bonnel, 2008).
Give feedback frequently. If students don’t receive feedback consistently and often it’ll be difficult for them to know what they need to work on and use this knowledge for following assignments. Try to provide at least one opportunity for them to receive feedback weekly. It doesn’t have to be a big assignment, it can just be a quiz or a discussion (Fiock & Garcia, 2019).
Give balanced feedback. Instead of only focusing on what the student is doing incorrectly, make sure you highlight what he or she is doing well. Reinforce their strengths to balance their flaws (Fiock & Garcia, 2019). A good approach for this is through the “feedback sandwich” - corrective feedback sandwiched between positive feedback (Fiock & Garcia, n.d.).
Online and Hyflex classroom settings have been seen as beneficial for students in terms of flexibility and convenience but have been criticized for falling short on student engagement (Stephens, 2020). Engagement refers to the learners’ cognitive, emotional, and behavioral relationship with their peers, their instructor, their institution, and the material (Bernstein, 2021). Regardless of the classroom structure used, it is necessary to keep the learners’ experience and perspective in mind. This article will outline 4 ways this can be achieved in online and Hyflex courses.
1. Instructor Engagement
It is difficult for students to become motivated to create positive relationships with their peers, their instructor, the institution, and the material if their instructors do not set the stage for success (Stephens, 2020). Instructors can take the lead by posting regular announcements and/or discussions, making themselves available to students via office hours, and creating meaningful learning opportunities for their students through learning activities and feedback.
2. Active Participation
One way to create meaningful experiences online and in Hyflex courses is to incorporate active opportunities for instruction using asynchronous or synchronous discussions where students can exchange ideas with their instructor and peers based on the material reviewed.
Guest speakers can also participate in the discussions and students can be invited to comment or ask relevant questions. According to Li and Guo (2015), guest speakers are a valuable way to help students become interested in the material and give them a sense of how things work outside of classroom theory. The authors recommend creating break out rooms for students to discuss among one another the guest lecture, so they are not passively listening to the speaker the whole time.
Another way active participation can be incorporated to promote student engagement is through impromptu speaking or presentations via VoiceThread, YouTube, or Zoom. Students will be motivated to prepare for these activities and receive instant feedback from their instructors.