I was talking with a colleague last week about the importance of providing our students with TIMELY FEEDBACK on their assignments, quizzes and exams. They asked me, “what percentage of faculty do you think return student work within a week or two?” We chatted about this and clearly I thought the percentage was MUCH higher than they did. In talking with students about this, I discovered that it is indeed the case that timely feedback is not as common as it should be. In some cases, students don’t get the results of exam 1 until very late in the term. What?! I guess this one deserves some discussion.

My Jan. 22, 2019 post was about STRATEGIES FOR QUALITY FEEDBACK, but it doesn’t address the timing of that feedback. We all want our students to learn and I think most of us think that we’re using a developmental approach during our classes where foundational material precedes application. But how do we expect students to learn from their mistakes and fill in the gaps if we don’t guide them through that process early and often? Even if this isn’t an area of struggle for you…

Let’s all commit to a Spring Term Resolution – “I will return my students’ work within one week.”

Did the air just leave the room? This is an important goal, and here’s why:

  1. Grades matter. They may not matter much to you, but they DEFINITELY matter to your students. Students want to learn for their future, sure, but they are taking your class as part of a package of classes that will earn them their degree. Students are usually quite laser focused on their GPA, especially if graduate school is next.
  2. Formative assessments are critical, but they only work well if students receive the feedback in time to do something about it. Comments on an assignment returned four weeks after it was turned in likely have much less impact on a student’s willingness or ability to re-learn fuzzy material than an assignment turned in last week.
  3. Grades can motivate learning. Now this is not true for all students, but it is probably true for most. Research shows that students’ grades regress to the mean (a low score on the first exam is usually followed by a higher grade on the next exam). But again, this only works if the feedback is timely. And if we’re providing feedback using the sandwich method (positive comment – this is what you need to work on – positive comment), then we can both encourage what is going well and direct behaviors and outcomes that need more attention. Referrals to the Learning Lab for Tutoring are a great idea.
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