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Giving prompt feedback is the fourth prinicple of good practices in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). In this episode, Garvey highlights a number of strategies to provide appropriate and prompt feedback to your students.
Welcome, good listener, out there in the podcasting metaverse! I am delighted that you have tuned in for this installment of Teaching & Learning Matters. I am Dr. Garvey Pyke, and we have another piece in the short series on “The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). We are now on the fourth principle, giving prompt feedback.
Faculty should provide appropriate and prompt feedback to students on their academic performance. Students need help in assessing their current competence and performance, and they require frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). Such feedback is an ongoing process in all college courses.
As undergraduates wend their way through college, they often express their concern with not being able to understand what their professors want from them. This is where feedback is key. We can use instructor-to-student feedback to help our students better understand our performance expectations of them, whether it is regarding their attendance, class participation, or academic performance.
This clears up misconceptions for them, and it makes our jobs more satisfying when our students strive to achieve the expectations we have for them. Both constructive criticism and praise can have a motivating effect by helping students focus on learning.
One of the most common ways to give students feedback on their performance is through graded assignments and tests. Typically, we assign students letter grades for these performances, but giving them more meaningful feedback can go beyond offering simply the knowledge of their results. We may also tell them what the correct answers should have been, or we could even give them elaborated feedback by directing them back to the materials or texts, which would show them where their errors occur. We help them focus on their learning goals and what they need to get out of the course.
In this sense, feedback continues the learning process: an evaluation of student performance is not an endpoint! However, to truly make it part of the learning process, we should try to get the feedback to the students as soon as possible after the performance has taken place.
During class discussion, feedback can be instantaneous: we let our students know, right then and there, if they are on track or not. With graded assignments and tests, though, we need more time. I think it is a worthwhile goal to be able to hand back all graded tests, papers, and assignments to the students within one week. Or less, if possible. Your students will thank you for it, and they will learn more because of it.
Of course, we can also gather feedback from our students, too. There are many strategies for doing this. For example, we can ask them to complete a “minute paper”: give them sixty seconds to write about a particular topic and then collect them. For example, we could ask them to write down something that was unclear in class today, or to name the three most important points from the class discussion, or perhaps what chapters they hope are not on the test! Even with very large classes, it takes no time at all to whip through their responses and find the common themes. Then we can close the feedback loop by discussing these themes with our students at the beginning of the next class session.
There are other ways to collect feedback, such as electronic or paper-based surveys. But the key is that we close the loop and give them the feedback about their feedback, so to speak, as soon as possible.
As you can see, feedback is an integral part of the teaching and learning process. If you would like some more ideas for giving prompt feedback in your classes, stop by the Center for Teaching and Learning at UNC Charlotte, and we will talk about it.
That’s it for today, but be sure to tune in for my next podcast, where we will talk about strategies for emphasizing time on task.
Until then, so long, and remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.
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