One of the most nerve-wrecking experiences that a student can experience is waiting for feedback from an instructor. The student has done her best in completing the assignment. She has taken care to remember key rules and points in composing the assignment, because these will be valuable not only in the current assignments being completed, but in future assignments and even in her future career. Providing effective student feedback and guidance is imperative.

As a former online student, I have experienced just how valuable an instructor’s feedback can be, and how using it has helped me to become a more effective writer and thinker. As an instructor of several years, I have seen first-hand how constructive feedback can be such a valuable resource for students, especially students who may not be very proficient in the learning process, or those students who may have been away from the school environment for an extended amount of time and need a little help to get reoriented.

Some of the methods of feedback you can use are very simple and student friendly:

  1. First, get a feel for who your students are, their current lifestyles, and their future goals by requiring students to post an introduction in the first week. In it, ask them to tell you a little about themselves, previous education experiences, and current and future education and career pursuits. In doing this, you will be able to get an idea of what students seek out of the learning experience during the course. It will also help you to select learning exercises that students can identify with based on their unique individual adult experiences that they bring into the classroom. It will provide a connection to learning that they can truly identify with and effectively take with them into their personal and professional lives. Information obtained can also be incorporated into future grading notes to establish a greater connection with the student.
  2. When providing feedback on assignments such as written reports, attempt to be as encouraging and constructive as possible. It is important that the student is provided positive, informative comments so that he will be encouraged to sharpen writing skills and continue in the program. Begin by informing the student of the positive points of the report, such as good comprehension of the assigned topic, creative ideas used, great grammar and formatting, ability to meet the report objectives in writing style, etc.
  3. When communicating with the student on areas that need to be improved, do not criticize harshly, but present it as areas of focus that can be of help in future writings. Present these in helpful bullets, complete with examples and helpful links to study, so that the student fully understands each bullet and can readily apply them in their next assignment. For example, one of the areas that students need help with most often is APA formatting. If a student has an APA reference that is not correct, suggest the appropriate correction underneath the incorrect format, highlighted, so the student can compare and make note of changes that need to be made, along with helpful APA study links.

The overall goal in providing feedback is not to negatively criticize, but to positively educate in ways that help students retain learning. The retaining of the information learned will help students become stronger learners and competent professionals in their careers.

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About the Authors

Pamela Edwards, PsyD, MA

Pamela Edwardsis an online professor and freelance writer. She also has a 20-year background in medical claims examination and patient accounting. She holds a BA in general psychology, BA in health care administration, MA in health psychology, and PsyD in Christian counseling.

pamela edwards