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Produced by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Student Committee on Teaching Excellence (SCTE), with input from the students of SUNY Plattsburgh. Vol. 3, issue 3. Read other issues
What kind of feedback from an instructor on your course work is most helpful to you?
Students are like us. When they are assessed on a task they want to know what they have done wrong and how to fix it. That’s why multiple opportunities for review and redress are important for some forms of assessment. These assessments will be just as formative of learning as they are a summation of what is learned. Even summative assessments such as exams and quizzes should have a component of review and correction. Exams that are not reviewed offer no opportunity for growth in learning and will most likely be sources of student frustration that shuts out future learning.
One misunderstanding about feedback is that it has to be lengthy to be effective. In fact, the efficacy of feedback is tied to the immediate relevance that feedback has to student understanding. That requires first of all that the feedback be delivered in a timely manner; comments on work that come more than a couple of weeks after the work is done has a drastically reduced benefit and will not make sense to the student or even worse, may be ignored. Feedback that contributes to learning can be short as long as it gets to the point. Really good feedback also has a holistic component – it is never subtracted from the totality of student effort and achievement in learning.
It is also critical to see that feedback does not consist simply of written comments. Rubrics give feedback, as do office conversations and class discussions. Actually, students often tell me that the most helpful feedback happens in class. That means that if we are thoughtful in how we interact with the students and the material in class, we can accomplish a great deal in directing learning. This is especially important as a technique in working with large classes.
Students really do want criticism. They want guidance.
It may be surprising to hear that students really do want criticism; they want guidance. Sometimes we may use a Socratic approach in helping them find their misunderstandings, and sometimes we need to simply point them in the right direction. No matter what the style of feedback, when it is delivered with care and respect for the student, then it’s much more likely it will be received and acted upon.
“It really shows me that a professor is truly interested in my personal growth when they let you hand in a paper to give you feedback to then revise for a better grade.” -- Ruby Hernandez Torres
“When the professor provides constructive criticism and still allows me to make changes.” --Erin Hill
“When a teacher can explain why I got a problem wrong or how my thinking was confused.” --Seth Spoor
“The most helpful feedback that I receive from a professor is an oral evaluation. Mini conferences and meeting with professors during their office hours establishes a positive relationship with a professor and helps me to improve my work ethic.” --Alexandra Parisi
What gets rave reviews:
• Feedback that comes in time to do something about it
• Feedback that is constructive
• One on one feedback
• When feedback is delivered disrespectfully
• Long periods in a semester without formal feedback
• Lack of review of quizzes or tests
Peter Russom, Associate Professor, Art
Wondering who else has been nominated for our Teacher of the Month Award? Take a look!
Pete talks about his teaching in a way that conveys the essence of mentorship. His concern for the individual identity of the student comes through when he speaks of teaching students rather than classes, and it is this respect for their identity that seems to power his interaction with them. His philosophy about feedback has two key elements: timing and patience. He says, “I gather information; I make sure our discussions are on target, and I try to help the students push forward in all aspects of their work - in both strengths and weaknesses.”
Excerpts from nominating submissions:
“Peter is truly an inspiration to my work. He has allowed me and my artwork to grow… Peter also uses constructive criticism as a teaching technique by pointing his students in the right direction and allowing them to work, and then connecting with each student individually to see how their process is going.” --Zachary Thomas
"He shares his wealth of knowledge while still allowing students to freely express themselves."
“He’s always there when you need him and always willing to help. He shares his wealth of knowledge while still allowing students to freely express themselves.” --Kyla Berry
“Pete is an extremely enthusiastic teacher; he always has something positive to say. He is also a great influence! I hope that someday I may be as wonderful a person (and maybe a professor!) as Pete.” --Alex Fitzgerald
The CTE Teacher of the Month mug may not have the aesthetic appeal of Pete’s artwork, but hey, it holds coffee.
For more information about the Center for Teaching Excellence, please contact:
Becky Kasper, Ph.D., Director
301 Feinberg Library, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-3043
Fax: (518) 564-5100