Meaningful Feedback for Learners

Giving feedback, especially in an online setting is perhaps one of the most important parts of being a teacher. In the classroom, a teacher can easily give verbal feedback and words of encouragement or advice, on paper, as in homework assignments or tests, a teacher also normally uses feedback as a way to help students do better next time, or in the case of some classrooms, re-submit an assignment. But what happens when a teacher has graded bad paper and bad paper? Should the feedback given reflect an increasingly antagonistic teacher? It is very important that a teacher always views a paper, a homework assignment, any piece that should receive feedback, as a single instance, not an increasing number of poor quality artifacts that increases bad temperament. It is not a student’s fault being at the bottom of the pile.

Therefore, feedback must be given with the most care and always with the mindset of helping the students. Whether we think or see if students use our feedback in a meaningful way, our feedback always speaks of what we think of the student, at least that is what the student will see. Therefore it is important to always realize, it is not about the teacher, it is about the student. My current state of mind has nothing to do with the students’ performance and I should always keep in mind that the student WILL read it and whether he/she gives it a second’s thought or will think about it the whole day, it should be a way to help them not reprimand them. Ilan Mochary does a great job quoting Carnegie in his article titled Abraham Lincoln’s Brilliant Method of Handling Setbacks, when he describes the three takeaways of being a more patient feedback giver, particularly takeaway number one’ “When delivering feedback, think about how it will affect both the recipient and your overall goal.” It requires constant reflection and it is something that teachers always must keep in mind.

In the online setting, the same could be said about student-teacher relationship. It is even more important to keep in mind that the person, whether we believe tried their best or merely gave it some effort, our feedback must always represent what we want from them, to go beyond, to try their best, to reach the goal of the standard.

To any future teacher teaching my demo unit, I would recommend the following guidelines:

  • Always remember the reason behind feedback: to help students
  • Feedback should go beyond “Good Job” or “Excellent” it should contain a specific item that a student did well on or an item the student may improve upon
  • Be clear and concise when delivering feedback. Feedback beyond 2 sentences should be instead an email to the student

With these in mind, I think any future teacher teaching my demo unit or any online or blended class for that matter, should be successful and giving meaningful feedback to students in order to help them succeed academically.

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