Providing Feedback in a Remote Environment

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We in Teaching and Learning share the commitment to find ways to enact the aspects of the Evaluation of Student Learning Procedure which require thoughtful planning in a remote learning environment. 

Here are excerpts from the Academic Course Procedure to consider as we adjust our assessment practices to remote learning: 

  • Provide constructive formative and summative feedback. 
  • Provide students with an opportunity to review and discuss their evaluated materials.
  • Be accessible and available to students for discussions regarding evaluation components and results. Provide an explanation of the grade assigned upon request.
  • Respond to student concerns promptly. 

Students have a right to specific feedback on their performance on evaluated materials.  Moreover, in a remote environment when face-to-face interaction is already curtailed and students are isolated from their learning community, students will benefit from clear, timely access to feedback on their assessments.  

What are some beginning best practices to ensure this? Here are some initial suggestions, intended as advice and support for faculty. 

a desk with paper and the word feedback written on it, beside a smart phone and stylus
Image by Dirk Wouters from Pixabay

Click the accordion button (+) for more information on each topic.

Explain to students how to access feedback

Faculty can be proactive in guiding students to the best way for obtaining feedback on their tests and assignments. When you are explaining communication strategies for the course, you can point out the ways in which students will receive feedback. When providing feedback for assessments, you can also use the announcements feature to provide and/or reinforce explicit instructions on how to access the feedback. These additional instructions may also help cut down on the requests from students who do not find the remote learning environment intuitive. 

Display questions and answers after students have completed a quiz

By default, only a student’s overall quiz score is displayed on the quiz submission confirmation page in eConestoga.  An instructor can adjust the default to include other elements including questions that the student answered incorrectly, questions the student answered correctly and/or the correct answers.  It is also possible to add additional views that are available after a specific date. 

Faculty can make use of these options to ensure that students can see the results of their own assessments.  If some students are taking a quiz later than others, faculty can set a time, after all quizzes have occurred, for students to access their results. 

This practice will benefit faculty as well as students. If the quiz settings allow students to see their own results, faculty may not need to make as many appointments to show results to individual students who request to see their results. 

Refresh tests

It is understandable that faculty wish to protect the security of future tests. To meet this concern, academic teams for courses and programs can make it a practice to refresh tests year over year as much as time allows.  If the test is only used once, or only used once in a long while, the problem of test security is abated, enabling faculty to provide specific feedback in the simplest, most direct ways possible. 

Continue to increase the size of the question bank

Similarly, a large and ever-increasing question bank for randomized quizzes will respond to concerns about test security, so that for smaller quizzes, faculty don’t necessarily have to create a new quiz every semester while still ensuring that students have access to their individual results. As far as possible, add more question options each time a test is used. 

Try individualized tests

Where the learning is more application-oriented, some faculty have created tests which cover the same basic content but do so using an array of test versions/case studies so that students cannot really benefit from seeing another student’s test.  This can allay some of the concern over test security when giving students access to their results. Again, the key to replicability over time will be to create a bank of useable tests/test questions to prevent compromising the integrity of testing materials. 

Give global feedback

Even though global feedback to the whole class cannot take the place of individualized access to the results of each student’s test, it is still a useful practice. You can introduce big picture areas for student learning and improvement as part of the next lesson after a quiz, or you can make a short document, video, or audio to post addressing shared areas for further learning that affect the greatest number of students. A third alternative is to write and post a short written analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the class as a whole on the assessment. 

Download the chart with some possible wording for feedback responses to students.

Laura Stoutenburg

A college professor and accredited TESL trainer for more than 20 years, Laura Stoutenburg, holding an M.A., has taught and developed curricula for a variety of topics, with her work including language assessment in China and Canada. Before joining Teaching and Learning as a consultant, Laura coordinated Conestoga’s TESL Certificate and English Language Studies programs. She specializes in matters related to Intercultural Teaching and language acquisition, and is available at the Kitchener Downtown Campus.

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