Higher-ed leaders and instructors should rethink how students receive formative feedback--technology can play a role in making that possible

Why feedback is critical for your institution’s students


Higher-ed leaders and instructors should rethink how students receive formative feedback--technology can play a role in making that possible

Every predator in the animal kingdom who has ever gone after a brightly colored tree frog learns almost immediately not to do it again. And any human being who has ever touched a hot stove realizes how quickly the world around us can give us feedback. But as any college instructor knows well, feedback in the educational context doesn’t always happen as quickly. 

Tests and essays can take several days or even weeks to grade. In some cases, students don’t get feedback on an assignment until after they’ve already turned in the next one. In large classes where students are required to post and reply on topics in LMS discussion forums, the sheer volume of comments makes it almost impossible for professors to give timely and thorough feedback. Of course, there’s some feedback that works just as well or better with some delay–like holistic guidance over the course of a semester. But formative feedback, which responds to specific actions that students are taking, should be given in real time.

Unfortunately, most tools we use in the classroom fall short of that standard. Consider the LMS discussion forum, a platform ostensibly designed to help students improve their writing while engaging with one another. But as anyone who’s moderated such a forum knows, they often end up just “checking a box,” and in doing so enforcing a particular pedagogy: one that is designed around completing tasks rather than learning, practicing, and improving.

What would it look like if technology tools like discussion forums were a place where students could expect to receive timely and meaningful feedback that made each new post better than the last?

eSchool Media Contributors