Constructing and delivering effective feedback for students – Olivia Leung
I am very grateful to receive the Teaching Feedback Award 2017/18, a form of feedback provided to me by my students in return for the feedback I have given to them during lecture activities, presentations, case competition training, academic advising, and post-interview or post-event reflections. In the current online teaching and learning environment, feedback plays an even more important role to help students keep track of their progress and continuously make improvement. I have maintained my feedback practice and further adapted it to the online video platforms, such as Skype and Zoom, to extend my reach to my academic advisees, students enrolled in my courses, students in the Faculty in general to discuss and provide feedback to their questions on academic topics in my courses, summer study/internship plans and career developments in this challenging time, issues on learning and team-working online, and the management of motivation, time and stress under social distancing and health concerns of themselves and their loved ones. Therefore, the content of my feedback to students refers to academic knowledge, transferrable skills, an active attitude, and a wider vision.
Feedback is the most critical catalyst in any learning process to improve students’ performance. It can be in a variety of formats, such as a written report, verbal conversation, gesture or expression that the teacher shows in response to students’ behaviour or performance. If feedback is constructively formulated and positively delivered, it will significantly increase students’ confidence and motivation, leading to higher achievement.
I have humbly summarized my experience in constructing and delivering student feedback below:
The Performance Enhancer:
Constructive feedback is a list of feasible measures that students can act upon immediately to succeed at a higher level. It is more than just an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses (or areas for improvement) reflecting students’ current performance. It is a timely, practical, focused, forward-looking, and performance-enhancing action plan. Therefore, I emphasize what students can do specifically to enhance performance instead of criticizing what students have not done well enough. Having the right attitude is the first step to tune our feedback constructively, turning the entire feedback exercise into a positive and motivating experience for students.
The most effective way of delivering constructive feedback to students is by demonstration. For example, I would like to suggest a group of students to link their analysis to their solutions in a case study. In order to facilitate students’ understanding of my suggestion, I would demonstrate building the linkage in a similar case. Therefore, students receiving my suggestion know exactly what to do now to make their solutions more convincing. Similarly, when we provide feedback to students beyond academic knowledge, we must also continuously equip ourselves with the necessary skills, attitude, and vision to inspire students by being a role-model.
Feedback delivery could be carried out in different ways depending on the needs of target students. It could be in public to all students in a course, in small groups, or in private. Different students pick up feedback more effectively in different ways, so I usually observe and listen to targeted students’ needs in order to determine the most appropriate way of delivery. During feedback sessions, I encourage students to respond to each of my suggestions by voicing their needs and sharing their perspectives. By listening, I can quickly refine my feedback delivery method and style and revise my comments to make them more feasible for students to act upon.
People often think that providing feedback to students is the teacher giving to the students. In fact, the benefit is mutual, because student responses to my feedback have always encouraged me to become a better teacher. Thank you very much, students, for casting your vote to support my feedback to you. With your support, I am confident that HKU will become the best learning environment with excellent feedback for everyone. I also believe that effective feedback will enable students to have positive learning experiences in both online and physical settings.
Note: Some of the feedback practices in this article were featured in an article entitled ‘Giving back’ in the newsletter (Spring, 2019) of Faculty of Business and Economics.