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Learning Outcome: Design a variety of effective student assessments aligned to learning outcomes.
The timing of feedback is crucial for how effectively it can be utilized for improving learning outcomes. As students are working toward an outcome, provide more personal, detailed, formative feedback at an early stage to allow students to make substantive improvements; use a rubric during final grading to assess mastery. While I acknowledge that providing feedback can be time-consuming, focus on discussing the critical ways in which students are succeeding as well as opportunities to push students to the next level in their performance. Scott Rogers, Interim Director of Assessment, shared, "I always tell writing teachers to limit the focus of their feedback. Choose two, three, or four things to comment on--particularly if a student has the opportunity to revise and resubmit their work. Any more is overwhelming for both student and teacher. Additionally, I emphasize commenting only on what is in the prompt or rubric. Many instructors will spend hours commenting on grammar when that wasn't a priority in the assignment." Another recommendation is to ask students to create a revision plan, or even a simple reflection on the feedback provided by the instructor, so they can identify how they plan to approach related learning activities in the future. This holds students accountable for reading feedback while also encouraging them to use feedback more effectively.
Effective course assessment practices provide constructive, timely feedback to students on a regular basis. Opportunities for feedback should be deliberately planned into instruction, and your course assessment plan should reflect when, where, and how students can expect to receive feedback on various assignments. Feedback can be evaluative, but more importantly, it should be actionable and allow for students to improve their knowledge and skills. Personalized feedback can range from brief comments to standardized rubrics used during the grading process.
Students who are learning at a distance should receive frequent, timely feedback on their progress toward or mastery of learning outcomes. Some Sakai tools, like Tests & Quizzes or Lessons Questions, can automatically display instructor-specified feedback when students submit their answers or assessments. Personalized feedback can be provided using the Assignments, Tests & Quizzes, or Gradebook tools as typed comments, audio recordings, or attached rubrics. The Sakai Assignments tool is also connected to a suite of grading tools called Turnitin Feedback Studio, which includes options for in-line commenting, adding “quick marks”, and using a rubric.
Audio recording feedback to students is an option to consider. It is useful for sharing quick comments and allows students to hear your voice and tone, helping you to connect more personally with students. Providing students with feedback via video is a great strategy for any modality of teaching. When teaching online courses, video feedback early in the semester helps establish instructor presence. Video feedback may be most helpful for formative assessments like papers or projects completed in stages over the course of several weeks. Tone of voice and facial expression can clarify communication while also feeling more personal. Some instructors even find that video feedback reduces their grading time. Video feedback via screencast enables the review of a document or artifact on screen while you are discussing it (see Could Video Feedback Replace the Red Pen?). Video feedback can be recorded using screencasting software such as Screencast-o-matic. Recordings can capture video from your computer screen or from a document camera. I suggest instructors record feedback as if they were meeting with a student during office hours. To privately share feedback videos with students, you can save these recordings in a designated Google Drive folder and share individual links to recordings. As with any Google Drive file, be sure your share settings for the file and/or the folder allow students to view the file. The video can also be uploaded as a file attachment or embedded in the Sakai text-editor. Contact Instructional Technologies (email@example.com) for assistance with Screencast-o-matic or Google Drive.
Here are a variety of additional resources to help you explore feedback strategies:
- Dos and Don’ts of Effective Feedback (Mandernach, 2016)
- What Are the Secrets to Providing Highly Effective Feedback to Students? (Orlando, 2016)
- Feedback Literacy: Activating Student Learning Potential (Carless, 2018)
- Teaching Students to Use Feedback: A Step Toward Deeper Learning (Yeigh, 2019)
- How to Give Your Students Better Feedback in Less Time (Orlando, 2015)
- What Kind of Feedback Helps Students Who Are Doing Poorly? (Weimer, 2015)
- How Can Improving Student Feedback Improve the Quality of Each Educational Encounter? (Paff, 2018)
- Effective Feedback Strategies for the Online Classroom (Mandernach & Garrett, 2016)
- Giving Feedback on Student Writing (University of Michigan)
- Using Audio Feedback To Respond To Student Writing (University of Wisconsin - Madison)
- How Audio Feedback Can Help Students Understand Grammatical and Mechanical Errors (Cavanaugh)
Rubric Uses and Benefits
If your course includes constructed-response or performance assessments, rubrics are a great tool to utilize. They have several benefits that make them worth the time invested to create and use them. For instance, rubric development prompts the instructor to clarify what they would expect at various levels of performance. They increase equity and access because rubrics make the performance standards clear to everyone, not only those who arrive with knowledge of the subject or discourse. When students use rubrics to review their work or the work of peers, they are also participating in the assessment process. Rubrics standardize the review and scoring of student work while providing consistent feedback and documenting progress. And, when shared at the beginning of a task, rubrics can improve the quality of student work by specifying expectations.
Some assessments that may benefit from rubrics include:
- Online student discussions (when graded)
- Group or individual projects and presentations
- Reflective journals or writing assignments
- Community-based assignments and projects
- Test essays or papers
- Participation requirements for a course (when graded)
For assistance designing rubrics, schedule a consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blended/Online Q&A: Do you have any suggestions to streamline digital grading?
Digital grading can feel tedious, especially when you are spending many hours in front of a computer. Here are a few options for managing digital grading.
- Employ Autograding: When feedback can be generic, consider using automatic grading and automatic feedback options in Sakai Tests & Quizzes or using Sakai Lesson Questions.
- Consider Audio Feedback: Record audio feedback anywhere the Sakai text editor is available.
- Use Rubrics or Scoring Guides: Provide detailed feedback based on students’ level of performance for a set of criteria. Feedback from the scoring guide can be attached or pasted into the comments section of an assignment.
- Reduce File Submissions: Opening and managing downloads of student file attachments generally takes more time than reading and grading inline submissions of student text in Sakai Assignments or other tools.
- Download All File Submissions: If file attachments are necessary, some faculty may prefer to download all student submissions into a folder and use dual monitors to review work on one screen while entering comments and grades on another screen.
- Explore Supplemental Tools: Some faculty prefer to use annotation apps and a tablet to write comments on digital student work. Assignments submitted through Sakai’s Turnitin tool can make use of Turnitin’s Feedback Studio.
Scott Rogers, Interim Director of Assessment, notes that to save time, he uses peer-to-peer assessment. "I have students read and review peer papers all term. Instead of carefully reading every paper, I select examples, we norm them, and I monitor student feedback to one another."