How to provide students with meaningful feedback (even when schools are closed)

There are many ways at our disposal to help students figure out how to overcome the difficulties they are facing or to tackle the challenge of understanding new things, to improve what they can do. In every case, the importance of feedback is paramount. You may want to encourage or give them substantial explanations about how to do this and that.

During the lockdown, we couldn’t sometimes simply talk to students, sit next to them and give simple and quick advice, but with some apps, it was possible to find powerful and interesting solutions to produce effective and rich feedback.

You will find apps and advice on how to help your students, but keep in mind that students can help each other.

The document you are reading is divided into three main sections:

  1. How to help students in a synchronous way (videoconference for instance).
  2. How to help students in an asynchronous way (using Classroom, Google Docs, Flipgrid…)
  3. How to foster collaboration between students (in a non-teacher centre approach, you can rely on students to help each other).

1. How to help students in a synchronous way

Zoom

It’s easy to set up an appointment with your student and explain whatever you need to explain them. It doesn’t have to be long and you could schedule informal chats just to confirm that everything is right or understood. To do that, Calendly is great. All you have to do is provide a link and students choose a slot.

So you can have a one-to-one videoconference but be aware of safeguarding issues. In our school, we ask, if you do so, to record your session every time you have a meeting with only one student.

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2. How to help students in an asynchronous way

Google Classroom

Students can (and should) write comments in Google Classroom if they don’t understand something. Say you are posting a new activity or an assignment. If a student needs a little extra help, it may be useless to schedule a meeting and so on. All the student has to do is to write a question. Most of the time it solves the problem.

Google Docs

In order to produce student with rich feedback, you may use these three Chrome add-ons.

For instance, with Text Blaze, you create snippets of comments instead of writing the same thing over and over. You just type a shortcut and voilà! In my opinion, the main purpose is to create a dialogue between the student and his or her teacher. It is an asynchronous dialogue.

Using Mote will allow you to create voice note comments. Very handy! But don’t forget to turn on “Enable voice transcription” in settings. You’ll probably want to review and edit your transcript but it’s definitely time-saving anyway!

Why writing a long answer to a student’s question when you can record it in a lively and dynamic video? Use Loom to do that. Moreover, Loom is free if you are an educator. Go to Loom for education webpage.

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PDF

You may prefer using PDF files you can annotate in Kami for instance or even in Google Classroom. The latter is great for small assessments, the former has more capabilities (markup, comments, shapes, drawing…). Whatever your choice is, PDFs are a little bit like paper. If you have a stylus, it’s easy to grade a digital essay as you would on paper.

Flipgrid

Flipgrid is an app that allows students to record short online videos. A great opportunity to work on oral communication. As a teacher, you can even record an answer, send a private comment, etc.

Forster collaboration between your students

True, teachers can help students making progress, but actually students can help each other. As a matter of fact, giving feedback is not the simple transmission of information from teacher to learner.

Students can assess the work of their peers. This could be an ongoing discussion between students, a dialogue like on social media or a forum. Pupils would exchange ideas in order to produce the best work they can. Or they could discuss their feedback and find help on how to integrate comments given by the teacher if they don’t know where to start.

Let’s imagine a discussion highlighting these few points:

  • What the teacher said
  • What you could do about it
  • Areas that weren’t commented on
  • What to ask to the teacher

To make this discussion happens,

  1. You can create some kind of forum so a question (and, of course, your answer) benefits to the entire class. Google Groups is great for that.
  2. Get a backchannel with Yoteach.
  3. Create your own social media just for your class thanks to Qwiqr.
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I promise you, you will be amazed by the richness of the exchanges between your students. And it’s delightful to see them helping each other, to take time to share explanations and screenshots and so on.

Documentation

If you need help with any of these aforementioned applications, visit one these links:

To learn more

Want to know what is feedback? Want to learn more about effective feedback? Have you heard about flash feedback? Watch or read any of the documents below.

Examples of feedback

Wouldn’t it be great if teachers all agreed about what to say to help students overcome difficulties? And wouldn’t it be awesome if responding to students wasn’t time-consuming at all? If all students knew what to expect?

Consider creating banks of comments you could collaboratively elaborate during Departmental time. Down below, you’ll find two examples in French literature and philosophy.

Written by

Teacher and Director of Academic Research & Innovation @ Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill

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