"Providing students feedback on their assignments represents an integral part of being an instructor. Unfortunately, higher education often reduces this step to assigning grades as a pathway to calculating a final grade." - Brad Garner

In this issue, The Toolbox explores the value of effective feedback.  Watch the promo video below to get a glimpse into this topic.

The Toolbox series, authored by Brad Garner of the Center for Learning and Innovation, features an online professional development newsletter offering innovative, learner-centered strategies for empowering college students to achieve greater success.  The newsletter is published six times a year by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Read more in The Toolbox newsletter and visit the archives to access back issues covering a wide variety of ideas and resources related to teaching and learning.

Question: What challenges and opportunities do you encounter when providing feedback for student assignments?  Please leave a comment below.

Contributor: Brad Garner / Director of Faculty Enrichment, Center for Learning and Innovation

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5 Comments on The Toolbox: Providing Feedback--Maximize the Message and the Medium [VIDEO]

  • Candis K Allen -

    I don't have a problem leaving feedback with what corrections need to be made on the assignment in order to receive a better grade on the next assignment. (I teach writing.) However, sometimes, I find it hard to leave positive feedback when I feel the student hasn't read the assignment, hasn't followed the assignment, there are few if any redeeming qualities in the paper, and/or the student appears to put little to no effort in the assignment. My comments like "I enjoyed this topic" seem so lame.

    • Brad Garner -


      You raise a great issue...how do we get students to read and respond to the feedback that we labor over and design to improve their learning? The related issue is the fact that in a five or six-week course it is hard to close the loop of feedback resulting in improved performance.

    • Adam Binkerd -

      Great point, and likely one with which many instructors would emphasize. I would love to provide a sample of positive feedback on a submission of writing that I thought was a joke! I believe there are many lessons to be learned from the anatomy of the tutor’s response. Email me if you are interested in seeing this sample. Perhaps you and I can break down the feedback’s anatomy and share it with other instructors.

  • Chuck Roome -

    A key point in the article is to use recorded audio to replace or supplement written comments. My questions: 1. What are the key phrases to use or avoid? For example, should the audio feedback begin with "I think..." or "Based on the rubric..." or ?????. 2. How should it end? Should there be audio content to promote self-confidence and grit (these are mentioned in another toolbox article as elements of student success)? If so, what phrases do you suggest? - Thanks!

  • Tom Roberts -

    Thanks Candis for your candid observation. I have noticed that in many students they have a grade in mind that they want from the course. If the grade they see on an assignment matches or exceeds expectations, they see no need to open the returned assignment and review the feedback. Thus, students carry on with areas of inquiry you attempted to squelch earlier and/or continue with errors you corrected. This is especially prevalent when you have a continuous and ongoing initiative --- like building a business plan over the term.
    I have two techniques that I use. One is to begin lowering grades over the term for repeated errors and general lack of attention to my comments and observations. For the student operating under an “expected grade” mindset, this will eventually get his/her attention and they will begin reviewing your feedback. Second is to communicate with the student through the private forum. In most LMS’s the fact you have a private forum message usually pops up in a way that’s hard to ignore. Here is where I lay out my concerns and offer to call them to discuss further.
    I do consciously look for positive aspects of a student's submitted assignment. I also agree that sometimes this simply isn't possible. I did the "lame response" for a while but gave up on it a while back as I thought I was being dishonest both with myself and the student.


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