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Raising the Bar on Classroom Feedback Techniques for All Learners

Author: Elizabeth Barker and Kristin Basinger : Contact: University of Phoenix

Published: 2020-05-14 : (Rev. 2020-06-07)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Elizabeth Barker and Kristin Basinger from The University of Phoenix paper titled Raising the Bar on Classroom Feedback Techniques for All Learners.

Student feedback tends to be a one-way transmission of student assessment, presented in a format accessible to the learner.

Feeling as if the educator notices and comments on specific items, unique to the student, enhances motivation and satisfaction in the classroom.

Main Digest

Covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 requires that learners "with visual, audio, mobility, and cognitive impairments" (Hudson, 2002, p. 19) have access to materials in an accessible format. In general, educators have done well with compliance in this area and are slowly moving towards a shift in mindset, where the approach continues to focus on compliance but also on a more student-centered strategy. Many educators have not yet made the shift to student-centered feedback; fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to boost feedback for student benefit. This article will examine the benefits of utilizing enhanced feedback practices, such as audio and video, as strategies for all learners, not only those covered under Section 508.

In 2017-2018, 13.7 percent of all students were special education students (ages 3-21), with the percentage varying by state from 9.2 percent in Texas to 19.2 percent in New York (Riser-Kositsky, 2019). In addition, 10% of all students with a disability were diagnosed with Autism. Considering these numbers and the year over year rise in Autism diagnoses, it would follow that educators gradually make the shift to enhanced feedback as a matter of streamlining the grading process, if not for the fact that it is proven to be more effective for all learners.

A survey of 49 online, full-time faculty at one of the largest universities was administered. Each of the faculty members taught 26 sections per year, with an average number of 30 students per course. Each faculty member used BlackBoard Ultra and had received significant training in multimedia classroom tools, most of which were incorporated into the BlackBoard LMS. The results revealed that none were using audio or video feedback in their classrooms, except when a student disability required them to do so. Furthermore, these same instructors indicated that they used other tools, such as live video sessions and prerecorded videos, in the classroom on a regular basis. This group of faculty had advanced training in the areas of student engagement and adult learner characteristics. Faculty are clearly using time and effort to include live interaction and video in the classroom to engage students; however, it is not often extending to student feedback.

Student feedback tends to be a one-way transmission of student assessment, presented in a format accessible to the learner. Oftentimes, from elementary to college, feedback may consist of a rubric with minimal comments. When needed, feedback may be modified; for example, a visually impaired student will be offered a feedback document that can be read by a screen reader. According to West and Turner (2016), "[s]tudents typically regard feedback on their assessments as one of the least satisfying aspects of their university experience" (p. 408). This may be due to the minimal amount of interaction in the creation and reception of the feedback. Or perhaps the feedback may not hold the students' interest or may not be detailed enough to be helpful. According to Sadler (2013), "[f]eedback seems to have little or no impact, despite the considerable time and effort put into its production" (p. 90). How might feedback be altered to have more impact on student outcomes?

There has been much research on the topic of enhanced feedback applications. Using audio enabled PDF files, Rawle, Thuna, Zhao and Kaler (2018) adopted a "feedforward" instead of a feedback approach, incorporating feedback that was applicable to future assessments. Providing feedback that is applicable to future assignments provides motivation to use the feedback. Additionally, differences in feedback format may make students more likely to read or listen to the educator comments. In a study by Henderson & Phillips (2015), "video-based feedback was reported by students as being individualized (specific) and personalized (valorizing identity and effort); supportive, caring and motivating; clear, detailed and unambiguous; prompting reflection; and constructive, which led to future strategizing" (p. 51). Individualized feedback makes a difference in student outcomes and perceptions. Feeling as if the educator notices and comments on specific items, unique to the student, enhances motivation and satisfaction in the classroom.

The research is clear regarding the benefits of technology-based feedback. Technology-enhanced feedback has been cited as an effective means to create a two-way feedback dialogue, which can be tailored to the needs of all students (Yang & Carless, 2013). Yang and Carless (2013) introduce the concept of the Feedback Triangle, which includes "dialogue as an explicit attempt to circumvent the limitations of one-way transmission of feedback which frequently arises from the dominant structural constraint of written comments" (p. 286). In this application, the dialogue is not a verbal exchange, but instead a dialogue of ideas that fosters a relationship between instructor and student. Opening a running dialogue between educators and students leads to better understanding and stronger relationships. The question remains, why would educators not utilize these enhanced feedback measures unless required to do so?

When applied to Section 508 feedback strategies, educators are doing a good job of providing enhanced feedback. This type of feedback can easily be rolled out to all learners, regardless of ability. For this to successfully occur, faculty may benefit from extra training and collaborative efforts to understand the best way to accomplish this initiative. Enhanced feedback tools are already built into most learning platforms, and if not, they are available for free. Whereas in the past, audio and video feedback was problematic, creating and transmitting these files is now an easy task (Rawle, Thuna, Zhao & Kaler, 2018). Training and more consistent use of the feedback tools can only benefit educators and their students.

Once again, students with learning and accessibility needs have paved the way for all students to have an enhanced learning experience. The challenge is the unwillingness or uncertainty from educators to adopt enhanced feedback for all students. While change is difficult, over time using the new tools will become second nature and benefit all students. Additional research is warranted, to understand why educators are not utilizing the tools and classroom enhancements for all students, as well as how to best use the tools to maximize education for all learners.

References

Henderson, M. & Phillips, M. (2015). Video-based feedback on student assessment: scarily personal. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 51--66. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1878

Hudson, L. (2002). A new age of accessibility. Library Journal, 19-21.

Rawle, F., Thuna, M., Zhao, T., & Kaler, M. (2018). Audio Feedback: Student and Teaching Assistant Perspectives on an Alternative Mode of Feedback for Written Assignments. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9 (2). Retrieved from https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cjsotl_rcacea/vol9/iss2/2/

Riser-Kositsky, M. (2019). Special education: Definition, statistics, and trends. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/special-populations/

Sadler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 535--550.

West, J. & Turner, W. (2016). Enhancing the assessment experience: improving student perceptions, engagement and understanding using online video feedback. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 53(4), 400--410. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2014.1003954

Yang, M. & Carless, D. (2013). The feedback triangle and the enhancement of dialogic feedback processes. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 285--297. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2012.719154

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