Efficient student feedback for busy lecturers
Although good feedback from lecturers is still a powerful learning tool, there are other options available.
By Associate Professor Helle Lottrup Halkjær Rhode, Department of Veterinary and Animal Science and Centre for Online and Blended Learning.
While exams and exam grades often are considered the ultimate feedback for a student’s learning outcome, the current generation of students expect interactive learning, individual learning goals and high level of individual feedback1,2. Indeed, feedback does provide the students with more self-reflection and higher quality learning3. However, with increasing number of students on many courses, the relative time available for individual attention is limited, and feedback may be perceived as an increasing burden for the lecturers. Continuous and formative feedback loops are a natural part of courses designed as varied and blended learning.
The question is how we ensure students are met with the most efficient feedback for their learning process, without feedback taking up more time for our busy lecturers?
There are more answers to this question.
Different types of feedback
Although good feedback from lecturers is still a powerful learning tool, there are other options available; such as peer-to-peer feedback. The point is that not all types of feedback provide the same amount of student reflection and learning. It is therefore worthwhile considering how and when feedback should be included in a course, in order to reach the intended learning outcome.
Fortunately, there have been several feedback initiatives at UCPH producing a good library of resources on different types of feedback. This short paper highlights some of the online tools available at UCPH to provide feedback to students during their courses. This is far from an exclusive list, and intended solely as a source of inspiration.
Try these options for in-class (synchronous) feedback
Use student response-systems during your lectures.
Student response-systems, such as Socrative and Sendsteps, may allow for simple feedback, primarily during a lecture. These can work well with large number of students, where the students answer questions on their laptop or mobile device during a physical or online lecture. The lecturer can thereby get an idea of how many students have answered correctly and whether a topic needs to be revisited in plenum. The students get feedback on whether they are on track and compare themselves to the rest of the class.
In case the level of the students is lower than expected, students can be asked to discuss the questions in smaller groups (this part works particularly well online e.g. in breakout rooms in Zoom). Groups may formulate and post questions to the topic, which are answered in plenum, so students feel they get the attention that they need in order to understand a given point.
Use padlet when students share information and feedback
Padlet is a collaborative tool, where students can share input, answers or links to their productions. Students can see the contributions of other students, and provide short feedback as comments or likes. Compared to peergrade, padlet is less obvious to use for peer feedback on assignments, but has the advantage that everyone on the course can see all contributions and comments. Padlet is simple to set up and useful for activating student learning both in class and between classes. Students may provide feedback to each other and perhaps mark the statements they would like to have explained further in class.
Give constructive live feedback in plenum
As such, live feedback (whether online or not) may spark a constructive dialogue with students and create inspiration, motivation and active learning, but this also requires time for both students and lecturer(s). One option to save time for the lecturer is to give plenum feedback – either to general anonymous points, which all students can relate to, or - more delicately - to selected groups of students, where others listen in and benefit from the feedback. To free up time for live feedback during a lecture, consider “flipped classroom” where students acquire part of the learning before the lecture, which can then be spent on interactive feedback in plenum.
Try these options for feedback between classes (asynchronous)
Add automatic feedback to your quizzes in Absalon.
Quizzes provide an immediate impression of whether students meet a set of goals or not (right/wrong answers) and quizzes are generally popular to use. An obvious way to provide feedback to a large number of students is to include automatic feedback to your quizzes. When setting up your quiz in Absalon, you have the option of providing additional feedback to correct as well as incorrect answers. Both have didactic value, either building extra knowledge on the correct answer or sparking further reflection to a wrong answer, particularly if the student can retake the quiz.
Try different modes of feedback for assignments in Absalon, SpeedGrader
When giving students feedback on assignments in Absalon, you have the option of giving feedback in different modes in speedGrader. Apart from the “normal” written feedback, you can choose to provide audio feedback or video-feedback directly in speedGrader. Both audio and video feedback may be less time consuming to produce than written feedback (approx. 5 mins to produce 500 words of audio feedback4) and students may even feel that the feedback is more motivating than written feedback.
Ask students to provide peer feedback.
As mentioned initially, there are other options than lecturers provide students with feedback. Students may potentially learn more from giving feedback, rather than just receiving feedback3, since giving feedback requires a good understanding of the subject5. Students giving and receiving feedback to the work of fellow students is termed peer feedback.
Use peergrade in Absalon for peer feedback on assignments
Peergrade is a system, which is designed specifically for peer feedback, and can be accessed via your Absalon course-room. In this program, you can set assignments and formulate specific criteria, thereby guiding the students to the aspects of the work they should focus on. Students can give each other feedback in groups or individually, with the option of anonymous feedback, so the students do not know who they give feedback to or receive feedback from. Secondly, students can be allowed to flag or call for the attention of the lecturer, if they receive feedback which they perceive as wrong or misleading.
Use discussion groups for continuous group work
Discussion groups can work as peer feedback or lecturer feedback, either physical or online via Absalon, where students can provide feedback to each other by commenting on the input, assignment or link to a production made by another student. Discussion groups in Absalon can be set up so that groups can only discuss with their group members or so that everyone on the course can see the discussion thread. Discussion groups can also work as a way for the lecturer to get insight into the level of the student groups, and provide feedback directly where it is needed.
- Winstone, N. and Carless D. (2019). Designing effective feedback processes in higher education: A learning-focused approach, Routledge.
- Zorn, R. L. (2017). Coming in 2017: A new generation of graduate students-the Z generation.College and University, 92(1), 61-63.
- Nicol, D., Thomson A, and Breslin C. (2014). Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(1), 102-122, doi:10.1080/02602938.2013.795518
- Cann, A. (2014). Engaging Students with Audio Feedback, Bioscience Education, 22:1, 31-41, doi: 10.11120/beej.2014.00027
- Camarata, T. and Slieman T.A. (2020). Improving Student Feedback Quality: A Simple Model Using Peer Review and Feedback Rubrics. Journal of medical education and curricular development, 7, 1-7, doi: 10.1177/2382120520936604