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Characteristics of Good Student Feedback

September 11, 2019


Hello, my name is Dr. Gavan Watson and I’m
an educational developer in Open Learning and Educational Support at the University
of Guelph. You’re watching the first in a series of videos that we’re calling “five
in three.” What does this mean? Over the next three minutes I’m gonna give you five strategies
or suggestions related to the topic of giving good feedback to students. While future “five
in three” videos will change subjects, you always get five suggestions or strategies
within three minutes related to teaching and learning in higher education. It’s my objective in the next three minutes
to get you thinking about what constitutes good feedback. By the end of the next three
minutes, you should be able to describe four different qualities & strategies that can
be incorporated into the feedback you provide students. Why care? Incorporating these qualities
will improve the quality of the feedback you provide and ultimately the quality of students’
own learning. So let’s get started! When I’m talking about giving good feedback
what I’m talking about is the kind of feedback that can improve student learning. Truth is,
we get feedback all the time in many different situations. What I’d like you to do is think
back to a situation where you received good feedback. I’ll give you a moment here to think
of something before I carry-on. And, apologies for the awkward pause. If you’ve got a situation in mind, now take
a moment or two and think of some of the qualities of that feedback—what was it about it that
made it so good? Again, I’ll give you a moment to think about it before I carry-on. Now, with those characteristics in mind, let
me share with you four important characteristics of feedback for student learning. The best
feedback is: specific, actionable, timely, and respectful. I’m going to take the balance
of our time to explain these in a little more depth. So, good feedback is specific. Rather than
providing general comments, give students feedback that will provide them tools for
improvement. As you’re evaluating student work, you could ask yourself the following
questions: “What exactly worked in this assignment? or “What requires improvement?” Answer these
questions, and you’ll be on the way to providing specific feedback. Focus feedback on a few specific items. As
a student, you might have experienced getting an returned essay covered in red comments.
Reflecting on my own experience as an undergrad student, I know I’d feel a little bit of anxiety
when I got an assignment returned to me. As an evaluator, you can narrow the scope of
your feedback, and reduce the amount of it, by asking (and answering): “If this student
could only change one thing next time, what change would make the most significant improvement?”
By limiting the feedback to the highest impact areas of improvement, not only have you focused
your feedback on specific items, but you’ve also saved yourself a significant amount of
time commenting on every small error. Good feedback is actionable. Concentrate on
future improvements by offering a student concrete suggestions emphasizing what could
be done next time (rather than emphasizing what they did “wrong” this time). Good feedback is timely. The most effective
feedback is immediate and frequent: it is specifically tied to the event being evaluated
and given often. This might mean for submitted work, for example, that you ensure that students
get back their marked assignment before they have to submit their next one. This way, students
can incorporate feedback into future revisions. Finally, good feedback is respectful. Make
an effort to look for the good. Now, this doesn’t mean giving unnecessarily general
feedback simply for the sake of giving positive feedback, but it does mean that as the evaluator,
you should be able to communicate at least one concrete thing that a student did well
in an assignment. Respectful feedback is also non-judgmental
of the person doing the work. For example, you can communicate deficits in work by using
I statements. So, rather than saying “You did not demonstrate the relationship between
X and Y” you could turn this into an I statement by saying “I did not understand the relationship
between X and Y.” There you have it: four key characteristics
of good feedback. Remember that the best feedback is respectful, timely, actionable and specific.
If you can incorporate these characteristics and your next round of marking, not only will
you save yourself time, but your students will have a clear idea of how to improve the
next time they submit work. If you’re interested in further resources
related to providing student feedback, you’ll find some suggested links for reading. Thanks for listening and watching. If you
found this video useful, give us a thumbs up and if you have questions, feel free to
ask them in the comments below.

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