Tag Archives: effective feedback

Growing Leadership Muscles Through Feedback: Showing Students Where They’re Going

Dr. Shaneika A. Dilka, PhD

Psychology Professor, Kaplan University


Feedback is one of the most vital elements in the learning process. Faculty, instructors, mentors, tutors, etc., serve critical leadership roles in academic institutions and as such, should work to grow their leadership muscles by providing quality feedback to students. Following a recent discussion on using the principles of transformational leadership to improve classroom interactions and outcomes, I was challenged to think about the topic more narrowly and to consider sharing specific details and methods related to linking transformational leadership style to the art and practice of academic instruction. This was perceived as a challenge, perhaps, because both leadership and instructional styles are highly personal and uniquely developed professional skills. Also, the idea of linking transformational leadership and instructional methods did not seem unconventional. After all, Slavich and Zimbardo (2012) suggested that most instructors already display behaviors related to transformational leadership in their classrooms every day. In fact, if we reframe the discussion and evaluate what we do in the classroom, in our instruction, we see that we grow or flex our leadership muscles every day! In the online classroom, one of the most powerful tools at our hands is feedback, and as leaders and instructors, delivering effective feedback can have major implications for our students.

Consider the purpose of feedback; at its most basic level, feedback is intended to give students information about their performance. Hattie and Timperley (2007) suggest that three questions should be asked during the feedback process by both students and instructors, “Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next?” (p. 88). Through leadership, facilitation, and well-crafted feedback we can continually consider where our students are going and guide them to ask the question, where am I going?, as they develop their work as well. Faculty members can set high standards and provide challenging opportunities (inspirational motivation; see Bass, 1985) through goal identification. Providing students with feedback that is clear and identifies challenging goals that are focused on the primary task will guide the student to answering the question, where am I going?. Feedback structured in such a way generally results in goal-directed behaviors, discrepancy reduction, and increased commitment to the identified goals (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

How can we show students where they are going? This is often a difficult question because the answer requires an incredibly personalized approach for each student, another dimension of transformational leadership (individualized consideration; see Bass, 1985) that is ever-present in the classroom. To show students where they are going, my intent is always to guide, never to tell. I reinforce existing goals that have been identified, or set new goals when appropriate. In feedback, answers, corrections, and errors are generally not identified individually; rather, resources are provided (i.e. relating to theory, formatting, etc.) to students and they are encouraged to engage in problem solving strategies to further enhance their work (intellectual stimulation; see Bass, 1985). This approach is challenging, self-directed, and increases learners’ autonomy. In some cases, it may be necessary to provide an example of the appropriate method or approach the student should follow; when such cases arise, an example is provided along with additional resources. My primary purpose using this feedback approach is to raise the students’ awareness in order to make them more active in the feedback process, asking, where am I going? Students learn to identify their paths, apply scholarly judgment, and develop invaluable research skills. And as faculty, we are able to flex and grow our leadership muscles, providing our students with the feedback they need  to determine where they are going.



Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York, NY: Free Press.

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112, doi: 10.3102/003465430298487

Slavich, G. M., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2012). Transformational teaching: Theoretical underpinnings, basic principles, and core methods. Educational Psychology Review, 24(4), 569-608. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9199-6

When Commenting on Student Writing, Use This Shortcut with Extreme Care

By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center

I’ve encountered both good and not so good practices for tutoring and teaching writing over the past twenty years, and the difference between the two often comes down to how to best use a tool.

TextExpanderThere is one tool in particular that I could not do asynchronous paper review half as well without. For me, the brand has changed over the years as I began with Typeitin by Wavget then used Spartan Multi Clipboard and now use TextExpander by Smile, but all do the same thing: paste previously written comments on a paper. I’d recommend any of these clipboard programs to any tutor or instructor who regularly reads and responds to student writing online.

When so many students new to academic style need help with the same matters of formatting and citation, essay structure, paragraph development, and sentence grammar, a clipboard can save hours of typing the same feedback over and over. Using a prewritten clip also guarantees that the feedback on the fifteenth paper in need of page formatting or source integration is as thoughtful and detailed as it was on the first paper. With a few key strokes, you can insert a clearly written response that more than draws attention to an area needing attention but also suggests a strategy, provides an example, and/or recommends a resource to help the student take the next step, so the student not only understands the feedback but knows what to do with it or at least where to begin.

Yet as wonderful as ready-made, well-written comments are, feedback also has to be relevant, useful, and personal to be substantive and pedagogically sound. Clipboard programs are no shortcut for close reading and critical thinking, nor are they a substitute for the reader-writer connection paramount to tutoring, teaching, and learning writing. Clips only work well in tandem with personalized feedback.

When using a clipboard to comment on papers, consider the following best practices:

1. Reread every comment you insert, every time. Comments need to accurately identify and explain the issue in the highlighted text. If you insert a comment for a fragment, and the comment describes the issue as a clause missing a subject or part of the predicate, but the text being highlighted by the comment has both a subject and predicate and is a fragment because a subordinator is making it a dependent clause, you’ll want to modify the comment or create a new comment for your clipboard that addresses the specific issue as exemplified by the student’s writing.

2. Use the clip only as a template. Modify the pasted clip by adding specifics and deleting unneeded details to ensure your comment is useful. If you have a clip on how to format an in-text citation that explains the elements needed, punctuation rules, and variations between quotations versus paraphrases, and the student has only misplaced a period, after pasting in the clip, delete the extra information. Further, praise the student for his or her strong grasp of citation format!

3. Use the specific language from the student’s text. If you have a clip to help a student identify and edit inconsistencies with grammar such as subject-verb agreement, your comment may only be useful if you also indicate which word is the subject and which is the verb in the highlighted passage. Don’t assume the student will know. Here’s an example:

Original Clip: Since the subject for the plural verb “___” is the singular noun “___,” the subject and verb do not “agree,” making your point unclear. As you edit, you’ll want to give subject-verb agreement extra attention to make sure both are singular or both are plural. You’ll find a terrific review of subject-verb agreement in the recorded KUWC workshop here. I hope you find it helpful as you revise and edit your paper, ____!

Personalized Clip: Since the subject for the plural verb “come” is the singular noun “the nurse,” the subject and verb do not “agree,” making your point unclear. As you edit, you’ll want to give subject-verb agreement extra attention to make sure both are singular or both are plural. However, sometimes when a prepositional phrase, such as “on nights” in the highlighted sentence, comes between the subject and verb, it can make the subject harder to identify. You’ll find a terrific review of subject-verb agreement that also addresses the use of prepositional phrases in the recorded KUWC workshop here. I hope you find it helpful as you revise and edit your paper, Julie!

 4. Be discerning. Once you have a large database of clips, it can be a little too easy to insert comments; however, too much feedback, even when well written and personalized, can hinder more than help. Comments should address the questions or concerns stated by student in the message with the paper submission, your sense of the highest order concerns for the purpose of revision first and editing second, and what is appropriate given your assessment of this student’s writing skills in the context of the class the paper is for. Ask, would detailed comments on citation format be necessary for a 100 level IT course? Probably not. Would a long explanation on how to write a thesis statement by useful to a graduate psychology student writing a case study assessment? It’s unlikely.

5. Finally, back up your clipboard program regularly. Developing a good database of clips takes time. I know because in the seven years I’ve been tutoring online, I’ve had to start over a few too many times. Computer and hard drive crashes no longer have to take your clips with them, however. Use the backup options of the clipboard program you choose, save your good work to the cloud, and enjoy the time you save by using a clipboard by shifting your focus to personalizing your already well-crafted comments.