Teaching Through Feedback

Award Winner: 
2014 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Melanie Shaw
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Northcentral University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

In the online classroom, one of the primary ways that faculty provide instruction to students is through written feedback on assignments, especially in the absence of synchronous contact with the instructor. Therefore, it is critical that instructors provide the right types and amounts of feedback to maximize student learning. In this effective practice, feedback is explored as a means of increasing student retention and satisfaction in the online classroom.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The teaching through feedback model was adopted by the university in this study as a primary teaching modality required for all faculty members. The implementation of this approach involved extensive faculty training, consisting of a five week course with direct mentoring, and then a period of practical application and reflection spanning eight weeks to ensure mastery of the teaching approach. The model was based on two primary components – providing specified types of feedback and prioritizing feedback given to students on papers. The feedback model is largely based on an approach developed by Hattie and Temperley (2007). Faculty members are asked to provide the following types of written guidance on all student assignments:
1. Feedback (related to how well the student met the objectives of the discussion question).
2. Feed up (related to clarifying the goal or purpose or the rationale for why a student can benefit from the knowledge gained from the discussion).
3. Feed forward (related to how the student can apply the knowledge to future assignments).
Further, students are given feedback based on several levels of priorities ranging from most to least important: attitude, knowledge, reading, thinking, and writing. Faculty members are expected to provide narrative and rubric feedback on the assignment coversheet and then to embed faculty using track changes or comment bubbles in Microsoft Word to indicate student mastery of learning objectives. The following guiding questions are provided to help faculty provide feedback on each priority:
1. Attitude: Does the student have an attitude toward school and learning needed for success in school? Does the student have a "hungry mind" or an attitude of doing the least needed to please a teacher to get a grade?
2. Knowledge: What can you assume that the student knows? Can you assume she knows what a run-on sentence is or what one typically learns in a graduate or doctoral program or what a research design is or how to write an annotated bibliography item or. . .?
3. Reading: What reading skills does the student demonstrate? Can she accurately represent key ideas in readings? Can she engage and question a text? Can she synthesize and compare points of view?
4. Thinking: Can the student think critically? Analytically? Creatively? Is the student a concrete thinker, unable to extract a general rule or idea from particulars? Can she evaluate rationally? Synthesize ideas?
5. Writing: Can the student write a proper essay with an introduction, thesis, and rational organization? Does the student see writing as a matter of communicating to an audience and as thinking, a way of figuring out positions on matters?

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Trends that demonstrate students are more likely to pass (35% vs. 65%) or persist (55% vs. 75%) following faculty engagement in the teaching through feedback model. Further, qualitative comments given by students on the post course surveys demonstrate a shift before and after the teaching through feedback model implementation. While pre-implementation comments were positive overall, post-implementation comments seem to reflect a more personalized experience for the students and an improved student/faculty relationship. There was a shift from confusion over assignment directions to clarity provided by the instructor after implementation of the teaching through feedback model.

Many of the activities have directions that are ambiguous and therefore difficult to sort through the exact expectation.
On the task for writing research questions, the directions ask you to reference the topic paper template. This was confusing and perhaps could be clearer.
The instructor was wonderful! I've not been challenged by another quite like this. She frustrated me at times, which led me to recreate my way of thinking that would fit the future of my doctoral journey
So far this was my most challenging course. I had to break down directions in order to understand them.
I would like to have more examples of what was asked for in the assignments.

If there were any aspects of the assignments that I didn't understand the instructor provided adequate explanations.
All activities were clearly described. The instructor gave helpful feedback.
The last assignment was a bit confusing but my mentor explained it well.
I thank my Professor for being flexible and being available via e-mail and via telephone. She was very helpful.
The instructor helped me with every question I had and she returned all phone calls immediately
The instructor clearly aligns student success with course materials. She provides feedback when necessary and addresses deficiencies appropriately. Her newsletters were very helpful for future work expectations. Perhaps sharing her comments with the next instructor would provide for a seamless transition. This is the only improvement I can offer. This is my second course with this instructor and I find her methods extremely well thought out and certainly differentiated to student needs.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Learning effectiveness is a key pillar and the teaching through feedback model supports student learning. Data collected over several studies and substantive reviews of the literature clearly show the correlation between student learning and faculty feedback. Online students rely on instructor feedback as a means of improving and developing content mastery. Written feedback provided on assignments, assessments, and discussions is indispensable to the learning process (Shaw, 2013). Instructor feedback improves a student’s scholarly abilities and provides requisite knowledge to complete course and degree requirements.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Faculty training on the teaching through feedback model

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

$100 per faculty member

References, supporting documents: 

Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the United States. Needham, MA: The Sloan Consortium, 1-26. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/class_differences
Anderson, D., Imdieke, S., & Standerford, N. S. (2011). Feedback please: Studying self in the online classroom. International Journal of Instruction, 4(1), 3-15.
Fagan-Wilen, R., Springer, D., Ambrosino, B., & White, B. (2006). The support of adjunct faculty: An academic imperative. Social Work Education, 25(1), 39-51. doi:10.1080/02615470500477870
Gallien, T., Oomen-Early, J. (2008). Personalized versus collective instructor feedback in the online courseroom: Does type of feedback affect student satisfaction, academic performance, and perceived connectedness with the instructor? International Journal of E-Learning, 7(3), 463-476.
Getzlaf, B. Perry, B., Toffner, G., Lamarche, K., & Edwards, M. (2009, July). Effective instructor feedback: Perceptions of online graduate students. Journal of Educators Online, 6(2), 1-22.
Green, T., Alejandro, J., & Brown, A. H. (2009). The retention of experienced faculty in online distance education programs: Understanding factors that impact their involvement. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112. doi:10.3102/003465430298487
Johnsrud, L. K., & Banaria, J. S. (2004). Doctoral education: National issues with “local” relevance. Educational Perspectives, 27(2), 20-27.
Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult leaner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. London, UK: Elsevier.
Lee, N., & Horsfall, B. (2010). Accelerated learning: A study of faculty and student experiences. Innovative Higher Education, 35, 191-202. doi:10.1007/s10755-010-9141-0
Meixner, C., Kruck, S. E., & Madden, L. T. (2010, Fall). Inclusion of part-time faculty for the benefit of faculty and students. College Teaching, 58(4), 141-147.
Meyer, K. A., & McNeal, L. (2011, June). How online faculty improve student learning productivity. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 15(3), 37-53.
Nation, P. (2007). The four strands. Innovation in Language Learning & Teaching, 1(1), 2-13. doi:10.2167/illt039.0
Plano Clark, V. L., & Creswell, J. W. (2010). Understanding research: A consumer’s guide. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Rogers, C. H., McIntyre, M., & Jazzar, M. (2010). Mentoring adjunct faculty using the cornerstones of effective communication and practice. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 18(1), 53-59.
Scott, M., Bailey, T., & Kienzl, G. (2006). Relative success: Determinants of college graduation rates in public and private colleges in the U.S., Research in Higher Education, 47, 249-279.
Shaw, M. E. (2013). An evaluation of instructor feedback in online courses. Journal of Online Higher Education, 4(3), 1-15.
Song, L., Singleton, E., Hill, J., & Koh, M. H. (2004). Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 59-71.
Svirko, E., & Mellanby, J. (2008, November). Attitudes to e-learning, learning style and achievement in learning neuroanatomy by medical students. Medical Teacher, 30(9/10), 219-227. doi:10.1080/01421590802334275

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Melanie Shaw
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Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Scott Burrus
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Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Karen Ferguson
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