Feedback and Grading

Types of Feedback

There are three primary types of feedback you will provide in your online course:  feedback for improvement, feedback for motivation, and assignment feedback.         

Feedback for Improvement

Feedback for improvement focuses on helping students develop a deeper understanding of course content.

In order to receive feedback, it is important to ensure that students have enough opportunity to practice what they are learning and get feedback prior to large assessments. If students do not receive feedback on any work prior to a large exam, how would they know if what they are focusing on, studying, etc. is correct? Feedback for improvement:  

  • Portrays how well a task is being accomplished or performed
  • Distinguishes correct from incorrect answers
  • Builds surface knowledge
  • May include directions to acquire more, different, or correct information
  • Is aimed at the learning processes required to understand or complete the task
  • Cues the learner to think on a deeper level
  • Aims at enhancing students' metacognitive skills of self-assessment through self-appraisal and self-management
    • Self-Appraisal: students evaluate their abilities, knowledge, and strategies 
    • Self-Management: students engage in planning, correcting mistakes, and using fix-up strategies

Feedback for Motivation

Feedback for motivation is not content driven and will not directly result in better student attainment of learning goals. Instead, it focuses on building up student confidence through encouraging and positive feedback. If students hear from you that they've done a good job on something, they will be more confident in future work. Believing they can succeed is a vital component of student success.

Assignment Feedback

Quizzes, test scores, and written feedback on essays are perhaps the most obvious forms of feedback that you utilize in your courses.  All types of activities and assessments allow for feedback in the form of a grade and/or written feedback.  The following tips will help you make the most of assignment feedback. 

  • To provide timely feedback to students without increasing your grading load, consider giving short quizzes at the beginning of class and having students self-score them. This will give them instant information on their progress on course material.
  • Written feedback on assignments or on test questions should explain to students why they received the grade they did, or why they didn't get a question correct and how they can improve. 
  • The more time you spend providing feedback on something, the more important students will think the problem is, so be sure to devote your feedback to important issues.
  • Written feedback can also be provided to students by other students in the course through the use of peer/group feedback assignments.
  • When providing written feedback, establish a system of symbols, colors, abbreviations, etc. and communicate this to students at the beginning of the course. For example, tell students you'll highlight all of their critical thinking issues in yellow, all of their citation issues in green, all of their grammar issues in pink, etc. This makes grading faster, and also makes the feedback more visual for students.
  • In grading quizzes, tests, and papers, keep a list of the pages in your textbook and other resources available so you can quickly provide it to students when writing feedback. 
  • When providing written feedback, you can't comment on every single thing that may need improved. Instead, comment only on those areas that are vital to student success for revision or in future papers or work.

Best Practices for Feedback

  1. Feedback should be based on clear criteria. Feedback on assignments or in the classroom should be based on clearly communicated criteria for success. 
  2. Feedback should be timely. Feedback on assignments should arrive in time for students to improve their work prior to the next major assessment; otherwise, it's likely they'll make the same mistakes again.
  3. Feedback should be provided on both summative and formative assessments. If possible, it is helpful for students for large assignments and projects to be broken down into smaller pieces that enable you to provide formative feedback on their work prior to providing summative feedback after the submission of the entire large project. 
  4. Feedback should allow for student self-assessment. Self-assessment is vital to the learning process. When students assess their own work, they are engaging in deep thought processes that allow for greater reflection and understanding. Essentially, self-assessment helps students develop their learning skills. As students gain more practice with self-assessment, their confidence will increase, and they will learn how and when to seek feedback from their classmates and instructor. 
  5. Feedback should be relevant. Students should be able to see how the feedback they are receiving will help them to improve their performance in the class. Feedback is only useful for learners if they integrate it into their learning. Feedback that helps students do better on a subsequent assessment or provides guidance on a revision will be more relevant than feedback on a topic that will not be addressed again in the semester, or if the feedback is on an essay that students cannot revise.