I took a cohort program for my master’s and had the same instructor for 4 or 5 courses. Each assignment was an essay. On every essay I got exactly the same feedback – absolutely no comments on grammar or specific ideas, but rather the generic “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-.“ To this day, I have no idea on why “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A-“ rather than “Nice job. I enjoyed reading this. A+“ (which the student who sat next to me always got). (This feedback was especially sad when considering that this was a masters in adult learning. But that’s another story.)
Feedback to students can guide students, but in different ways. Here I would like to focus on three types of feedback: Feed back, feed forward and feed up (not to be confused with “fed up” – which is what I was in my master’s program).
- Feed forward (FF) – feedback that explains how to improve future assignments
- Feedback (FB) – ipsative feedback on current compared to past performance
- Feed up (FU) – feedback that explains why this (the assignment or assignment details) is important
If we identify our purpose(s) when we provide feedback, we can support students in learning and applying from both the assignment and the feedback!
FF – “Organizing your essay will help your readers. If you follow the sequence of what is asked in the assignment this will help you both ensure that you cover all elements and organize your thoughts more.”
FB – “On your last assignment I noted that you changed ‘voice’ often. Here you are consistent and your essay is much easier to read because of it!”
FU – “You do not seem to have a firm grasp on the differences between the behaviorist and constructivist theories. Understanding this is important because workplaces will want you to develop training based on these.”
Multiple choice exam examples:
FF – “In order to improve your performance on the upcoming [assignment/exam/group project], please review the [notes and materials/resources] posted in Blackboard.” (Purdue ITaP, 2013)
FB – “You are doing a better job studying. Your improvement is great!”
FU – “Understanding the basics of Excel which we cover here will be critical to your success in your accounting class.”
Here’s the whole model:
(Somewhat based on Hughes, 2012)
Is feedback important?
I remember the feedback I got 15 years ago in my master’s program because it was so bad. It did not inspire me or help me improve.
Good feedback may not be as memorable long term, but research has shown that it can help students improve not only what they know, but how to study and how to apply their learnings.
Passing note on Passnote:
By the way, writing appropriate feedback can be hard. At Purdue, we created Passnote to help. This is a very easy-to-use tool which has a selection of feedback notes which you can select and edit to make your feedback to each student individualized! And you don’t have to download or sign-in to use it. Take a look: http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/
Hughes, G. (2012). Ipsative assessment: comparison with past performance. Higher Education Academy Workshop and Seminar Series 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbarg/OU_workshop_files/TWO37-GH.pdf
Purdue ITaP. (2013). PassNote. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/passnote/