The Online Feedback Conversation

Here are some comments following on from a webinar I facilitated with Professor Gilly Salmon. It concludes with some tips for quick feedback activities.

Feedback is the most important aspects of learning and teaching, but can often feel like the hardest thing to achieve, especially when teaching online. I think it is important to not think about giving feedback’, but about the feedback conversation – ensuring we receive feedback from students as well as give it. So look for ways to make it two-way – we may know where the students are at, but do they? Do we know what they are thinking? Hearing from them is as important as telling them what you think. 

There is no one, best way to have feedback conversations, it depends on you, your students and the module. Whatever you do, if you do it well and consistently it should be effective. You may want to try a multi-format approach – this way you can discover what is most effective for most of your students.

In online spaces we may need to have feedback conversations more frequently, keeping the connection with students and maintaining their focus, so developing easy ways to create check-ins and chats can really help this.

Here are a few points to consider…

  • Be explicit with the students – it may seem obvious to you, but it may not be to them.
  • Be timely – research shows that one of the biggest factors of feedback is having it as close to an event as possible.
  • You can record audio/video feedback for students, some students may prefer this and refer back to it and it may be easier and quicker for you. You could do this in Zoom and send them the link to view, or record a voice memo. Rather than writing a script for your recording, think of it as a tutorial and just chat. Keep it brief – 1 or 2 minutes is sufficient. Keep it on track – what is the one, most important thing the student needs to work on – better to get this sorted than overwhelm them with a long list.
  • Acknowledge effort, not attainment – this will encourage students to keep working.
  • Give examples – students often need to see something done well and something not done well and (this is key) have an opportunity to identify why something is the way it is.

Feedback Summaries

If you have a lot of students you can make a general feedback summary (in whatever format suits you – written, audio, video, live in a class) including:

  1. What on the while most people are doing well 
  2. What still needs developing, include some tips on how to develop. 
  3. Suggest some reasons why the successes have happened, to help those who are missing those
  4. Suggest some stretches for the students who are already achieving quite well.
  5. Recap on the main takeaway points.

You could turn all this on its head and ask the students what they think is what is being done well and what still needs work.

Plan of Action

  1. Now ask students to consider where they think they are and why that may be. 
  2. Ask them to write a 5-point plan of what they will be working on over a given period.
  3. Ask them what barriers there might be and how they might overcome them – who/what do they need to help?

Some quick ways of getting feedback happening

  • Noticing – Ask students to notice a list of key skills in a performance or task (In a gig it may be tuning, timing, stage presence etc.) and ask them to rate how they did in relation to those (See the Bingo TLA).
  • Tasters – Give students a brief mark scheme. Ask students to perform a small task. In groups ask them to mark themselves/each other and say why they have that mark.
  • Mark but Don’t Correct – Give students a short task but don’t mark it – instead tell them how many points were good and how many still need work. Ask the students to then discuss where still needs work.
  • Ask students to give 5 words to describe where they are at with their learning
  • Ask students to raise a finger for how well they feel they have achieved the outcomes for a task (where 1 is “I need help” and 5 is “I have this nailed!”).
  • Open break out rooms in Zoom which are self-assigning – students choose which room to go into depending on the level of support they need – for example, Group 1 could be ‘I haven’t even started this’, Group 2 could be ‘I’m stuck – help’. Group 3 could be ‘I’m getting there but have questions’ and Group 4 could be ‘I’ve done it – what else can I do?’. Structure work/discussions in each group for students to be getting on with until you can go in to speak to them.
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