Last week, I attended the webcast Office Hours: Students Share Successful Feedback Tips because I think it is always good to hear what students have to say about feedback. In the KUWC, one of the primary ways we interact with students is by giving feedback, written, verbal, video, and more. The students being interviewed yesterday were responding to a survey given by TurnItIn: Closing the Gap: What Students Say About Instructor Feedback. What was interesting to me is what they said largely reinforces what we know and what research has said about feedback and student writing. Here is what they said:
- Give more feedback.
- Give specific feedback.
- Comment on early drafts and ideas.
- Make the comments on early drafts largely focus on ideas because they will work on the grammar and mechanics later.
- Comment on thesis statements (and ideas).
- Be available and involved early in the writing process.
- Give examples and help improve understanding of the different writing genres required for different classes. Example: English Literature vs. Engineering
- Give audio feedback.
- Respond in a timely manner, especially when students submit electronically.
- Utilize technology for feedback, especially if it helps give higher quality and more in-depth feedback.
The TurnItIn Survey had 1000 students respond in a 3-week period.
Sixty-seven percent (67%) of students reported that they receive general comments on their papers, but fifty percent (50%) of those said the general comments were not helpful.
I find this interesting because it supports the idea of giving specific feedback, which is strongly advocated by Beth Hewitt in her book The Online Writing Conference. Especially in the online setting, students need specific feedback and examples of how to revise their work. I find this to be true in our own work here in the Kaplan University Writing Center. For example, “Check your commas throughout the paper” is at least more specific than “Work on your grammar and mechanics.” However, it may not be specific enough, especially in the online setting. A more specific comment might say, “One way to correct this comma splice is. . .” Now, this is not to say that every comma splice in the paper should be corrected for the student. However, a specific example may help a student who is struggling with commas. In our case, we also include links to resources on this topic and invitations to visit our other tutoring services.
At the same time students want high quality feedback, they also want to receive that feedback in a timely manner. This was no surprise. What was a surprise is 17% of the students in the survey reported that it was taking 17 days or longer to get papers returned. That seemed a very long time. However, I was quite glad to see that 19.6% of the students reported getting their papers back within 3 days, which is an impressive return time in a class full of students.
The tension remains: How do we give high quality, formative feedback in a timely fashion? Technology may be the answer for some.
It serves students when they know when to expect their papers. Research on self-efficacy (Bandura) suggests that timely feedback allows people to change their behavior. While Bandura is not writing specifically about writing, he is writing about changing behavior, and timely feedback will allow students to change their writing practices and behaviors.
What are your favorite feedback methods?