Better Feedback = Better Learning

Posted by Ed Price at 7/1/2016 10:00:43 AM

I am sure we all can remember at one point in school putting forth huge time and effort into writing a paper or report only to receive back a grade and a quick comment of “nice job!” While you were happy to earn that good grade, the only feedback you got from your teacher was a brief, empty comment. When you think about it, what did you learn from the paper-writing process? You wrote, the teacher read, and in the end you received a pat on the back and a “nice job”. Wouldn’t it have been a better, richer experience if you received feedback during the whole process of writing, making the process an ongoing learning experience?

Jane Pollock in her book, Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching and Learning, discusses the small changes teachers can make that lead to meaningful and substantial student learning. The book gives many examples of how to improve student learning and provide robust feedback using Google Docs.  Let’s look at four levels of better feedback with Google Docs. 


Level 1 - Suggesting Mode in Google Docs:

Suggesting Mode allows a teacher to make ‘suggestions’ to a student’s work and not change the document. Students can then weigh the feedback given to them and make the changes they see fit themselves. Suggesting Mode is also a great tool for peer-to-peer feedback.

Level 2 - Add Comments in Google Docs:

When Adding Comments in a Google Doc, a teacher can give virtual feedback, similar to how you might provide verbal feedback in a face-to-face classroom. A teacher will highlight a portion of text in the document, then write comments correlating directly to that highlighted section. Typical comments might be, “What makes you think that?” or “Please give some supporting examples.”

Level 3 - Students Must Reply to Feedback:

Just making changes should not be the end goal. Remember we are looking for meaningful feedback and learning. When a teacher makes comments or suggestions, students should reply to that feedback, analyze the changes they have made, and reflect on what they have learned from the feedback and revision process. Making learning a circle, rather than a straight line, will provide a richer experience for all. 

Level 4 - Verbal Feedback (in a virtual world):

Everyone has experienced that email or text message that was meant one way, yet interpreted another. There are times when typing a response, suggestion, or comment just does not convey the full thought or feedback that is needed. So how do we leave vocal feedback when we're not face to face? Using Google Doc add-on Kaizena, a teacher can record verbal feedback on student work. This add-on allows a portion of test to be highlighted, then the instructor can leave a written or verbal comment. Kaizena also allows the student to upload voice comments into the document, thus creating a virtual conversation between teacher and student.

Want to learn more about Google Docs and how to use this tool in your teaching or personal life? Take our free Google Docs and Dive course. CLICK HERE to start!

On Formative Assessment

Posted by Ed Price at 5/27/2016 10:13:30 AM

The Power of Formative Assessment

One of the complaints from learners ‘online’ can be the lack of feedback and knowing if they are really learning. As last week’s blog, “The Lecture is dead! Long live the lecture!” discussed, many times online learning can become ‘lecture’-based in that learners are given readings to read, then post a response, or complete an assignment, only to be given a final grade with little feedback or input from the instructor.  Opportunities for good formative assessment can help guide both the learning and instruction. 

What is formative assessment?

The primary purpose of formative assessment in eLearning (or any learning) is to provide feedback learners can use to improve their experience and knowledge. In a nutshell, formative assessment looks at how learners are constructing knowledge and understanding during the process of learning. It can help us capture what is going on ‘right now’ in the learning process. Formative assessment should provide useful feedback to both the instructor and the learner. Summative assessments serve a different purpose in learning. Everyone can think back to examples of summative assessments like: final exams, cumulative projects, and standardized tests. These differ from formative assessments in that summative assessments tend to look more globally at the outcomes of instruction and learning over a longer period of time.

Instructors should keep in mind that formative assessments should benefit the learner as well as their delivery of content. To best do this, here are some tips to use formative assessments:

  1. Provide immediate feedback
  2. Identify measurable strengths and weaknesses
  3. Remember that formative assessments are “low stakes”
  4. Student progress helps direct learning and instruction


Types of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment can take many forms depending on the type of learning and instruction taking place. Here are some types of formative assessments:

  1. Goal checks
  2. One-on-one discussions
  3. Instructor observations
  4. Personal online learning logs
  5. Self-assessments
  6. Group presentations 

Select Tools for Formative Assessment

To make feedback and assessment more interactive and efficient, there are many tools that instructors can employ. Some of these to consider might be:

  1. Socrative
  2. Kahoot
  3. Zaption
  4. Backchannel chats (Today's Meet, Zaption, Ning)
  5. Google Forms
  6. And more…

In the end, low-stakes, focused, formative assessments will increase participants’ learning and growth. One of the greatest benefits of formative assessment, for both instructor and learner, is improved engagement in the learning experience.  If you would like to learn more about formative assessment strategies for you instructional practice, contact us in the Office of Instructional Design.