Feedback is an integral part of the learning process. Many studies have examined feedback from the instructor’s perspective to enhance student learning. However, there is less research assessing how students perceive different types of feedback and their usefulness.
Feedback is often a struggle for professors as it can be quite time consuming. Additionally, faculty are often left not knowing whether students have reviewed the feedback. On the other hand, some of us have heard students complain about the lack of feedback from professors. This leads us to wonder what kind of feedback students actually want.
Well, we asked students the question, and they responded with only minimal reminders to complete our survey! We asked students about 3 specific types of feedback, written, audio, and video, and what they liked, disliked, and how each type made them feel. Additionally, we asked them to rate whether the feedback was engaging, easy to access, and easy to understand. Participants from courses in Education, Communication, and Integrated Health Sciences responded to Likert-type questions on a scale of 1-5 as well as open-ended questions.
What we learned
Overall, students reported a preference for video feedback. While accessibility and understanding were ranked slightly higher for written feedback, video and audio closely followed. Students struggled a bit with accessing audio files. Students mentioned that replaying audio and video files was a bit cumbersome when searching for specific feedback, while they preferred the ease of skimming written feedback. But when it came to engagement, students really preferred video feedback. Most striking is the overwhelming number of comments about feeling connection and care from the feedback, audio and video in particular.
The Feedback was…
Easy to Access
Easy to Understand
Here is what the students told us.
“It made me feel proud of my work and happy to do such a good job on it. I enjoyed hearing the professor’s enthusiasm.”
“I liked how I was able to hear your tone and it was much easier to understand compared to reading off feedback (sometimes it’s confusing on paper).”
“I enjoyed hearing my professor’s voice- especially with this course being delivered in an asynchronous, online fashion. I enjoyed the verbal insights!”
“It felt much more personalized. Rather than a few words, or sentences that seem pretty generic, the audio feedback really gave me that feeling that my work was being read and analyzed.”
“The video feedback just made me feel more seen and appreciated.”
“It made me feel like I was one on one with the professor and sometimes is hard to come by in college.”
“During COVID, it has been weird to not be able to see my professors’ faces, so it was nice to be able to fully see their faces. It also felt more personal and somewhat like a conversation even though the professor was the only one talking.”
“Made me feel like a student rather than just a number with a generic response.”
“I understand that professors can’t write a book of feedback every time they grade something, but it just never feels like enough to go off of. It feels like I am getting the bare minimum amount of help.”
“It feels detached from my work and I feel like there is not as much effort with written feedback.”
In summary, students do appreciate feedback. They are looking for feedback not just regarding an assessment of their performance and how to improve, but feedback is also a vehicle for relationship building. As you are grading your students’ work, consider the audio and video feedback options afforded by Canvas. We found these options to take only a little extra time, and the results were definitely worth it. The benefit comes in building strong relationships with students which translates into more engaged learning and positive classroom environments. Students perceived feedback as evidence that they have been seen, heard, and regarded as individuals amongst a sea of others. So, while you might be swimming in ungraded assignments, remember, that your feedback has the potential to be the life preserver that keeps a student engaged.
I started teaching online in 2003 for a for-profit institution. It was two years after receiving my M.Ed. in Research and Collaboration at TCU where my focus was on online asynchronous learning. I was anxious to apply my research to my own classroom!
The realities of teaching online soon became very apparent. At that time the institution did not have an LMS. I taught the course through discussion forums. My students were lines of text on the screen, as I was to them. We didn’t have Zoom or any other video meeting software so we were confined to interacting through the discussions and email.
I realized quickly that I needed to somehow become a real person to my students; a person who cared about their experience and success. So I set about recording video introductions, using video and recorded screencasts to help them learn HTML, web design and multimedia. Soon I was asking them to post an audio or video introduction instead of text, encouraging them to share photos of pets and places they loved to travel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was humanizing my online course.
What is humanizing?
If you google this topic, you will see quite a few results. We’ve been working on this for a couple of decades, so that doesn’t surprise me. I particularly appreciate the work of Michelle Pacansky-Brock, a community college faculty member turned faculty developer who started teaching online in 2004. She created a wonderful infographic on this topic.
“Humanizing leverages learning science and culturally responsive teaching to create an inclusive, equitable online class climate for today’s diverse students.” Brock, 2020.
Humanizing your course is how you bring equity into your course design and teaching.
It also brings decades of research on instructor presence and student persistence to bear on course design and instruction. Being an excellent instructor in both the physical and online classroom in higher ed is a skill that anyone can learn. So these steps can apply to in-person courses as well.
Steps to Take to Humanize Your Course
Brock offers eight elements to use in humanizing your course:
The Liquid Syllabus: A public, mobile-friendly website that has your brief welcome video and includes “warm, non-verbal cues and hopeful language” to ease anxieties about your course and how to be successful in week one (Brock, 2020, pp107-108).
Humanized Homepage: the homepage provides a clear and friendly welcome to the course and tells the student how the course works and has a clear Start Here link to the syllabus and/or the course information module in Canvas (this is also a Quality Matters and Online Learning Consortium quality standard). Here is an example
Getting to Know You Survey: In week one, ask the students to complete a confidential survey that provides additional information about each student and helps you identify which students are going to be ‘high touch’ requiring more of your time that other students. In Canvas, you can create a survey for this purpose. If you are logged into Canvas, go to https://westerncarolina.instructure.com/accounts/1/external_tools/43?launch_type=global_navigation to see an example of questions to include.
Warm, Wise Feedback: I love this and always attempt to convey support and encouragement in my feedback to students. Brock states, “Your feedback is critical to your students’ continuous growth. But how you deliver your feedback really makes a difference, especially in an online course. To support your students’ continued development and mitigate the effects of social and psychological threats, follow the Wise feedback model (Cohen & Steele, 2002) that also supports growth mindset (Dweck, 2007). Support effort + ability + action. And deliver your message in voice or video to include verbal or nonverbal cues and minimize misinterpretation.
Self-affirming Ice Breaker: Week one of a course is full of anxiety for students and can impede their ability to start the course. Try an ice breaker that invites them to share a part of their identity. One example from the infographic is to ask them to reflect on a value that is important to them and then choose an object from their life that represents that value.
Wisdom Wall: sharing the ‘wisdom’ or advice from students who have previously taken your class. You can use a collaborative tool such as a Word file in OneDrive that students can access, or Flipgrid, which can be enabled in Canvas. You can also have studente email their success advice to you that you would add to the file, or empower students to create their own by having a link to a shared Word document by changing the edit settings to ‘Anyone with the link’. Post this link in your course to share it with your current students and then they can also add their own advice. Here is Michelle’s example of a Wisdom Wall.
Bumper Video: Short videos used throughout the course to introduce a new module or clarify a sticky concept.
Microlectures: laser-focused short videos (5 – 10 minute) that walk the students through the comprehension of complex concepts. Before you record, identify the one or two ideas you want your students to take from the video. Write a script to make sure that you are saying exactly what you want to say in the short video. Also, remember to produce closed captions for all videos. If you need help with closed captioning in Panopto, please contact the help desk firstname.lastname@example.org
All of these suggested steps are part of the best practices in online course design and teaching. They are also steps that you can take at any time during the semester.
These elements will be included in the CFC’s Online Course Design Institute offered totally online this summer. If you’d like more information about the OCDI, please contact us.
Pacansky-Brock, M. 2017. Best practices for teaching with emerging technologies. Routledge, New York, NY.
– Part 1 in the 2022 Teaching & Learning Day Series
On January 21st, the Coulter Faculty Commons hosted the 2nd Annual Teaching and Learning Day with the theme “Prevent Burnout with Self-Care Strategies.” The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Julie Harrison-Swartz, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at UNC Pembroke (recording available below). Dr. Swartz provided unique insight, as she is both faculty and a health care practitioner. Her research interest lies in ways faculty can support students’ well-being.
Keynote: Dr. Harrison-Swartz discussed stressors and how each individual’s perception of them is going to determine how they react physically and psychologically. Burnout occurs when individuals experience stress without relief. Burnout manifests itself as exhaustion, disengagement, loss of motivation, and depression. The pandemic has exposed us all to internal and external stressors for two years and it is taking its toll.
Strategies to Combat Burnout
Mindfulness is important as it makes us acknowledge our inner selves and be better prepared to take steps to better cope with the stressors in our lives: “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental way of paying attention to the present moment” (Centre for Mindfulness Studies).
Below we highlight how to practice mindfulness. WCU also has an institutional subscription to the mindfulness app Calm. Use this link to subscribe for free.
Merging meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or sports.(Mindful.org)
Can be done anywhere, in your car, at your desk, outside (we have such a beautiful campus!), at home.
Set boundaries (time and space) for email, grading, other academic work.
Try to not check email at least one of the days of the week, perhaps a weekend day.
Find what gives you joy and disconnect long enough to relax, recharge and refresh: playing with your pet, creative outlets such as drawing, crafting, music, creative writing.
Most importantly, remind yourself why you are doing this. Have mantras like “We are in the business of changing lives” as Chancellor Belcher used to say. Or our current call “We are fulfilling our Promise”.
Join us for our 2nd Annual Teaching & Learning Day. We will meet from 1 – 3:30 to discuss strategies faculty can use to prevent burnout in these demanding times. We will also discuss ways in which we can encourage and support our freshman and sophomores whose academic preparation was affected by the pandemic.
We have invited an expert on helping faculty prevent burnout through self-care to give the keynote address. Dr Julie Harrison-Swartz, DNP, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, is an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at UNC Pembroke.
In the second hour of the event, we will discuss supporting students to be successful. We had an unprecedented increase in failure rates last semester at WCU. But we are not alone in this as other institutions across the country are also experiencing this situation. We will discuss what’s happening and brainstorm some ways in which we as instructors can help these students succeed this semester.
Whether you call it inverted instruction, classroom flipping, or some other term, the concept behind this kind of instruction is basic. Students get the foundational knowledge they need outside the classroom and class time is spent on higher-level learning. Properly executed, this instructional methodology changes the instructor’s role from one of a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.” (Bergmann & Sams, 2007)
How do the students get that foundational knowledge?
If you record your own videos:
Keep them short (7 minutes max)
Provide captions and transcript
If you don’t want to make your own, there are plenty of sources:
Khan Academy, YouTube, Ted Talks
Assign specific time ranges as appropriate
A history, account, narrative, or case study
From the course texts, assign specific pages if the students don’t need the whole chapter – they are more likely to do the reading
Consider developing a reading guide to target their attention on particular concepts or ideas
Again, assign specific pages or parts of the website as appropriate
Give your students a list of questions and let them find answers
How can I know they have attained the foundational knowledge?
Barkley and Major, in their text Learning Assessment Techniques, offer concrete ways to assess students’ foundational knowledge, and they fit the “blending” teaching paradigm:
If asking them to recognize – consider an online quiz that focuses on verification, matching, or forced choice, to be taken prior to coming to class.
If asking them to recall – consider online quiz questions that focus on low cues or high cues.
If asking them to interpret or exemplify – consider an online quiz that focuses on constructed responses or selected responses.
If asking them to infer – consider questions that focus on verification, matching, or forced choice.
If asking them to explain – consider questions where students must reason, troubleshoot, redesign, or predict.
What are some effective classroom strategies to engage students in higher-level learning?
Have your students bring a list of points they’d like to have clarified to class
Alternatively, have them post them to a discussion board
Address these points first before moving on to other learning activity
Students discuss/clarify muddiest points in groups
Have students teach what they learned
Let the students demonstrate what they have learned
Is flipping right for me? The real question is whether or not flipping is right for your students. One of the big advantages of flipping is that it gives students more control over their learning as they guide the classroom activity with their questions. Another is the opportunity it provides instructors to review their teaching methods. After considering your options, you may decide that flipped instruction does not provide any advantages. However, keep in mind that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You may determine that some material in your course is suitable for flipping, while some still require more of a hands-on approach. In either case, you’ll have reflected on how you are teaching and that is always a good thing. (Trach, 2020)
Barkley, Elizabeth F., and Claire H. Major. Learning Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4205832.
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2007). Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Tech in Ed. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/hunter-ebooks/detail.action?docID=3317690
Hertz, M. B. (2012, July 10). The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz
Trach, E. (2020, January 1). A Beginner’s Guide to Flipped Classroom. https://www.schoology.com/blog/flipped-classroom
Whether you’re teaching an Honors Section of a course, working with an Honors Student one-on-one through an Honors Contract, or just thinking about how to keep your Honors Students motivated in a regular class, studio, or lab, there are a variety of resources available with ideas for faculty on boosting learning outcomes for Honors Students.
This short article from the University Honors Program at Kansas University describes moving learning outcomes up to the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy in which learning goals are aimed at synthesis, evaluation, integration, and creation. These higher levels of critical thinking are key to inspiring Honors Students in their studies. They create modes of learning that challenge motivated students in creative ways that go beyond just doing more.
This paper (access provided through Hunter Library), written by faculty in The Netherlands, looks at instructional factors and how those strategies challenged their high-ability students. In their conclusions, they affirm that the combination of student autonomy, complexity, and teacher expectations come together to be effective in keeping these students motivated and challenged and ultimately improving outcomes. These factors further underscore the value of establishing learning outcomes for Honors Students that are at the highest levels of critical thinking in terms of course learning goals.
The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt has a useful summary of Bloom’s Taxonomy on their website. This is a quick resource that summarizes the action verbs that are aligned with the different processes of learning, e.g. planning, producing, generating, checking, critiquing, attributing, organizing, and differentiating, corresponding to critical thinking at the highest levels of Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation.