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How to create a positive, effective feedback culture?

We came across a blog written by academics at Iowa University that provides several practical principles on how teachers can focus more on a ‘feedback culture’. Thereby extending students’ learning experience beyond solely a summative assessment at the end of a course. We elaborate on each of them and explain how our tools support in organizing the pedagogy.

1 - Assess higher-order thinking skills

In order to assess higher-order thinking skills (e.g., synthesizing, analyzing, creating, evaluating, and applying) teachers would need to design assessments that go beyond memorizing. These types of assessments could include learning activities such as group projects, verbal assessments, practicals, essays and debates. These activities provide opportunities for additional formative feedback before taking the summative assessment.

2 - Students must understand the feedback process

Feedback should help students understand where they are in their learning process compared to where they need to be. To achieve this, the teacher needs to clearly explain to students what is being assessed. FeedbackFruits allows for providing structure and clear instructions in the process of assessment. FeedbackFruits also enables teachers to add a checklist that students can use to reflect whether they comply with assignment requirements.

3 - Be specific when providing feedback

Effective feedback includes being specific, all while ensuring that feedback is understandable. Specific feedback addresses gaps in students’ understanding and provides a direction for students to improve their understanding (Mandouit, 2016). Within FeedbackFruits feedback can be easily connected to criteria to ensure it is specific. In addition, it is possible to place feedback comments inline to specifically address to which sections feedback applies.

4 - Give high-quality feedback in a timely manner

Although many teachers know students benefit most from feedback when provided in a timely manner, the difficulty lies in quickly providing feedback with high quality. Teachers often struggle with time constraints. Hence, FeedbackFruits developed features that save time in the process of providing effective feedback, such as our ‘reuse your feedback’ option. Reusing feedback also ensures consistency of feedback quality. We are currently working on a feature that allows teachers to easily create cards with detailed explanations. These cards can be used while reviewing as they are easily added to annotations to increase the depth of feedback.

5 - Ongoing feedback, con­tin­u­ous rather than peri­od­ic

Open-ended questions and assignments give teachers an instant assessment of students’ thinking and allow teachers to con­tin­u­ously provide students with instant feedback. Rather than confirming, praising, or rejecting students’ ideas, a teacher could ask them to clarify, elaborate, and apply their ideas.
One of the reasons why FeedbackFruits developed the Discussion Assignment tool, is to digitally organise a process in which students elaborate on their understanding and ideas. In the flow of the discussion assignment students are also asked to discuss and provide feedback to peers. This occurs in an open environment in which everybody can see each other’s work. As a precondition for this to work, teachers would have to create a safe classroom culture where students feel comfortable expressing their ideas with others. Students in turn, should feel comfortable to provide critical and constructive feedback to others.

Tips on how to create a safe classroom:

  • Have students work in small groups and call on the small groups to share ideas
  • Rather than confirming or rejecting students’ ideas, ask questions such as
  • “If that is the case, how might that idea apply to X?”
  • “What do other people think of this idea?”
  • “Why does this idea make sense?”

6 - Students should have a role

After athletic competitions, athletes often watch videotapes of themselves to self-assess and improve their performance for the next competition. Similarly, students in the science classroom need opportunities to assess themselves so they can internalize what they do and don’t understand (metacognitive self-assessment). In order to digitally cultivate metacognitive skills, FeedbackFruits has built several features; e.g. the option for students to filter on their self-assessment and compare it to how peers assessed them.

Conclusion: Although providing effective feedback and creating a culture in which it is ongoing can be time consuming, the positive impact on student learning and the classroom dynamics is worth the time. FeedbackFruits has built support to make it less time consuming and to create a feedback culture that aims to provide both students and teachers with better insights into the learning process.

Mandouit, L. 2016. Authentic feedback: What it is and isn’t. Education Week.

We launched FeedbackFruits Educators Initiative to continue our support for teachers and speed up pedagogical innovation.
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