Best practices: Creating effective feedback

According to research students don’t classify a course as either “good” or “bad” based on instructor preparedness instructor organization or even the level of interaction within the course. The one item that distinguishes a course as being exemplary is the level of helpful feedback received from the teacher on their progress. Feedback both to and from students encourages student learning and course improvement. In this blog post we will look at what feedback is how to write it effectively and touch on three Moodle™ /Joule tools useful in this process.

What is feedback?

Feedback is information provided to students through some form of assessment about the difference in the expected level of learning and the actual level of learning. Feedback that is useful gives students information about this difference and provides them with strategies to lessen it. The feedback provided from an instructor should result in an eager engaged and self-motivated learner who wants to make every effort to better their performance. Effective feedback:

  • Gives the opportunity to improve performance.
  • Reinforces the course goals and objectives.
  • Fosters communication about learning between the instructor and the student.
  • Encourages the use of self-assessment.
  • Supports positive self-esteem.

Providing authentic feedback

Students can become discouraged and motivation can be decreased if instructors provide feedback that is too brief too negative too difficult to understand or does not provide enough direction on how to do things differently in order to improve performance.

Effective feedback is:

  • Provided frequently.
  • Extremely detailed.
  • Focused on student performance (not personality or effort).
  • Given when students still have the opportunity for improvement.
  • Directly related to the goals of the assignment and the pre-determined criteria (rubrics or checklists).

If you want your students to take your feedback and implement it you need to make sure that you take the student’s work seriously (no matter how poor the quality may be). Establishing a connection to what the student was attempting to do (even if unsuccessfully) is of utmost importance. You’ll also want to give authentic and concrete suggestions for improvement.

Consider these tips when writing feedback:

  • Start with something good. Students want to know that they have done at least one thing right. If they see you’ve noted their good work they’ll be more likely to accept the improvements you’re suggesting.
  • Focus on the product not the person. Give specifics about the level of knowledge the product displays. Don’t judge the student’s attempt or past work. Avoid using absolute phrases such as "You never..." or "You always...".
  • Give specific examples for change. Give in detail examples of how the student can better their work. This might include showing a student how they can re-write a sentence to better convey their point or use correct punctuation and grammar.
  • Encourage improvement. Instill in the student your belief in their ability to improve. Site specific examples of products or resources that the student can use to assist their improvement.

Using Moodle™/Joule Tools to provide authentic feedback

Moodle™ /Joule provide a number of tools useful in the feedback process. Consider how the following three ideas could incorporate into tools and processes you may already be implementing.

  • Using the Advanced forum's private reply feature gives you an opportunity to comment on a specific user's post allowing only you and the user to see it creating a feedback opportunity directly inside of the forum. Simply check the Private reply box before saving changes when replying. When using the private reply function indicate to the student that the post is private and that the other participants have no indication that a reply was made. Consider using this tool to guide a student on how to communicate effectively in a forum without the rest of the class seeing the discussion or to direct feedback to a learner on a specific post.
  • Sharing ideas or suggestions during the revision process is important to students' growth. The Joule grader allows for viewing and posting comments between the grader and learner on Assignment and Advanced forum activities. These comments display in the participants' User report as well. Use it to leave detailed feedback about an activity submission describing the reasoning for the student's grade. Click here to learn more.
  • The Feedback activity allows you to create a survey-type assessment for asking specific questions that can be answered anonymously by your participants. It is often used to evaluate if the class material and facilitation are meeting the goals of the course. Consider using it throughout the term to gather feedback from students. Conducting an initial course survey allows you to find out what objectives the students have for the course. A midterm check-in helps you determine if the course communication and facilitation are clear and effective and a final course evaluation ensures subject goals have been met.

For a more in depth look at feedback strategies and other facilitation skills check out our new course Foundations of Moodle™ Course Facilitation available for enrollment staring January 15 2013.

Happy Moodling!



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