Using Student Feedback to Improve Teaching and Learning (CTL Report #6)

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The second CTL workshop I attended this semester was in more of an asynchronous, classroom format, where we had a week to go through the material on Canvas. This workshop was titled Using Feedback to Improve Teaching & Learning and was facilitated by Fred Baker, Tracy Rock, and Jessica Kapota. The description is below:

“Feedback is integral to the teaching and learning process. Providing students with feedback can motivate and guide behavior change that translates into student success. Soliciting feedback from students allows faculty to make changes in their instructional strategies that also lead to student success. This workshop provides an overview of tools and strategies for giving and receiving feedback – both traditional and technology-based – that can be easily incorporated into any course. This workshop counts towards the Essentials of Teaching and Learning Certificate.”

I registered for this course because I was interested in hearing more about how we could listen to students, obtaining their feedback to better improve our teaching methods and provide students with better learning experiences. When designing activities for our Intro to Data Mining course this semester, I had added an additional reflection question at the end of each activity to ask students to briefly reflect on (1) what they had learned and (2) what worked well or not in the activity for them (so I could learn how to improve upon it for the next one). Again, I was curious about what other methods could be used so we that we can keep improving.


Types of Feedback

The first section of this course discussed types of feedback. These types included:

  • Verbal feedback: such as comments, corrections, or reactions to class discussions.
  • Non-verbal feedback: such as body language.
  • Assignment feedback: grades and comments on student work.

It was also stated that “there are two primary categories of feedback that can be offered… feedback for improvement and feedback for motivation.” Feedback for improvement is mainly for helping students gain a better grasp on the course learning material itself. It is necessary to give students feedback on their understandings of the material so that they can keep improving. It helps portray to a student how well they are doing. Feedback for motivation, on the other hand, is “not content driven.” Instead, this type of feedback focuses on trying to help build student confidence through positive feedback.

Some examples of feedback for improvement that I did not originally think would be included were to help students “think on a deeper level” and work to enhance their “metacognitive skills of self-assessment through self-appraisal and self-management.” I previously thought about this type of feedback as an instructor or TA providing grades and explanations about what was correct or incorrect. However, it is also more than that. It is also helping students learn how to think about and evaluate their own learning experiences.


Feedback Best Practices

Five feedback best practices were given, stating that feedback should be:

  1. Based on clear criteria;
  2. Timely;
  3. Summative and formative;
  4. Allow for self-assessment; and
  5. Relevant.

On feedback being summative and formative: for large projects, it is useful for them to be broken down so that feedback can be received throughout the whole process (thus, giving students a chance to improve), rather than only once at the very end.

On feedback allowing for student self-assessment: it is discussed that “when students assess their own work, they are engaging in deep thought processes that allow for greater reflection and understanding.” Reflection is a big part of learning, and by allowing for self-assessment, we are helping students develop their learning skills.

Some questions were provided that could be used for student self-assessment:

  • What do you think is a fair grade for the work you have handed in?
  • What did you do best in this assessment task?
  • What did you do least well in this assessment task?
  • What did you find was the hardest part?
  • What was the most important thing you learned in doing this assessment task?
  • If you had more time to complete the task, would you change anything? What would you change, and why?

gETTING sTUDENT fEEDBACK

Lastly, how to obtain student feedback was presented.

While end-of-semester evaluations are a good way to obtain student feedback, since it is at the end of the semester, it provides no way to help improve teaching midway through the semester. That’s why obtaining feedback throughout the course, rather than only at the end, can be helpful. It was also stated that students “respond positively when their comments results in changes to the course.” However, if you receive feedback and do not respond to it, it may have an opposite effect as it may portray to students that you are “not responsive and do not care about what they have to say.”

Ways to receive feedback listed were:

  • Having in-class activities and interacting with the students then;
  • Asking for mid-semester evaluations; and
  • Creating end-of-module evaluations.

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