Offering learner feedback
This is part two in a two part series on leveraging technology to provide meaningful feedback to digital learners. You can read part one, “What feedback is and isn’t” here.
Feedback is a critical component of the learning process and it has the greatest impact when delivered in a timely manner. It used to take days, and sometimes longer, for students to receive feedback from their teachers. Once that much time elapses, learner feedback becomes meaningless.
In What feedback is and isn’t, I shared that feedback must be tied to a goal, be timely, user-friendly, and actionable. Learner feedback must also be consistent and ongoing in order to have a positive impact on achievement. One of the many benefits of technology is that it helps us with all of these aspects of feedback. Providing learner feedback becomes even easier when Hāpara is added to the mix!
In order for feedback to be impactful, it is important that teachers are on the same page about what it looks like. Why not create a shared Google Doc where teachers can share ideas for what good feedback looks like? Departments could even create a Workspace where examples of student work and feedback are shared to help develop and maintain consistency. Teachers could have access to this Workspace and refer to it whenever needed.
Ongoing and Timely
In the not so distant past, students would have to wait days or even weeks to receive feedback. That is not the case anymore. Technology allows us provide students with ongoing formative feedback to help keep them moving in the right direction. Google Docs, Slides, Sheets and Drawings have a commenting feature built in where we can leave feedback for students.
In the last blog post, I described a scenario in which two students must write a research paper, but their experiences are very different. Johnny’s teacher did not provide much in the way of learner feedback until the students were nearly finished with their final draft. Jenny’s teacher on the other hand, provided constant feedback to help students achieve their learning objective. For example, Jenny’s teacher provided feedback on her selected topic before allowing her to begin her preliminary research. Students in Jenny’s class received feedback on their research and notes before moving on to crafting their thesis statements.
In my experience, I have found that students are much more likely to act on feedback when it is provided while they are working or soon after they complete a task. Jenny and her classmates were motivated to make adjustments to their papers because their teacher was providing feedback during each step of the assignment using the comments feature in Google Docs.
In addition to using comments in Google Docs, the Highlights feature in Hāpara provides teachers with the ability to see all of the tabs that students have open. Teachers can see what students are searching for and looking at while they are researching, a valuable insight into the thought process. Dashboard, another feature of Hāpara, provides teachers with access to all of the documents that students have in their Google Drive. Having a convenient way to access student documents makes providing learner feedback easier for teachers.
The purpose of feedback is to help close the gap between what students currently know and what they need to know. With that in mind, it becomes apparent that we will most likely have students working on different tasks during class. Teachers can support learners by creating differentiated Workspaces that allow students to work at different paces. Students who need to adjust their work can take the time to do that while the rest of the students are working on something else.
Students are much more likely to act on feedback that is easy for them to understand and is not overwhelming. Jenny and the other students benefited immensely from the feedback they received during the writing process. Since it was ongoing and timely, it was naturally chunked into smaller pieces that were easier to act on.
It is worth taking the time to examine the quality of the learner feedback that we provide to our students, as it can have a huge impact on their learning. It takes time to share good feedback, but technology can make the process much easier.