When done well, personalized feedback enhances instructor presence and provides students with a better experience in the course. Constructing this type of feedback for each individual student, though, can be time consuming. However, there are some techniques that can provide students with a personalized experience while still saving you some time and effort.
Create a Feedback Repository
One technique to consider is creating a feedback repository for the assignments in your course. This is simply an electronic file containing feedback that you find yourself providing frequently to students. You can create this type of repository using word processing software by utilizing tools such as Turnitin, which include this type of repository as part of the grading feature. Whichever way you choose to do this, you can add to it over the semesters, and you will eventually have a rich selection of responses to pull from when providing feedback to students. You can then add just a few comments, such as including students’ names, some encouragement, and areas for improvement targeted to the student to whom you are responding.
Having standardized feedback for common mistakes or errors frees up your time to provide feedback to improve teaching. For example, on a research paper, standardized comments could be used for spelling, grammatical, or style errors, and then you can tailor the remaining feedback to address the actual content of the paper. Feedback that teaches provides both encouragement and additional areas for students to work. Even high performing students can benefit from this type of feedback as you guide them to additional resources or ideas to consider. Often, this type of feedback can be provided as a series of questions for students to consider, or a series of steps for them to follow to improve their work for their next assignment.
An area of feedback where instructors are often overwhelmed is the discussion forum. Trying to respond to each post can be difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, there are some different techniques that will allow you to respond once, yet still personalize your response:
- Summary with highlights: You can provide a single summary response near the end of the discussion that pulls out the best quotes from individuals in the discussion and comments on them. Identifying students by name and commenting on their good ideas is a great way to provide instructor presence and build community.
- Summary with redirect: You can provide a summary response at any time during the discussion and redirect, either to correct or enhance the discussion by posing more questions and/or ideas for the students to respond to.
- Selected responses: You can respond only to selected posts during the discussion period - perhaps those that best exemplify the type of responses that you are hoping for, or those that may need a little encouragement for deeper thinking – this lets students know that you are paying attention and value both their work and engagement.
These are only a few ideas, and there may be ideas that would work better for your course. The main thing to remember with any discussion forum is to simply make it clear to the students what to expect from you. You do not necessarily have to interact in each discussion forum, or answer every post – just let the students know your plan for interaction.
Throughout your use of feedback, focus on the positive along with the negative. One way you can do this is called the “sandwich technique.” The idea here is to start with something good, then address a problem, and then provide some more good. For example:
“You have done a great job of formatting your paper using APA guidelines! The main thing that I see for you to work on is correctly formatting your citations in your reference page. This is something that takes a little time and practice, but you may want to focus on the formatting style for webpages and online journal articles, since these are the two that will be most often used in this course. Overall, I can tell that you are working hard to create a solid research paper and your understanding of your topic is very good! Keep up the great work!”
This type of feedback will help provide supportive correction for students as they work throughout the course.
We would love for you to share your own tips and strategies for providing feedback in the Faculty Forum.
Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research. (2016). Teaching Resources for Engaged Educators [online training modules]. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.