The Enigma of Feedback

A classmate of mine, Mark Friesen, has been hosting a discussion forum entitled The "Enigma" of Feedback.

He has been referencing research by John Hattie (2012) and quote that have resonated with me are that “while feedback is among the most powerful moderators of learning, its effects are among the most variable” (129), and that "[f]eedback is more powerful when it is sought by the teacher about his or her teaching than by the student about his or her learning” (154).  

I have spent many hours counseling students about what their expectations of the course are vs what is happening in the classroom, counseling teachers on what is happening in the classroom vs what the student and company expect and counseling myself, a curriculum developer, on what makes a strong course vs what the reality of the classroom is.

To bridge the gap between:
  • What the instruction thinks the teachers are delivering
  • That the teachers think is important
  • That the students are experiencing
CLASSE survey instruments should be used to open a dialogue about how important different teaching strategies are to student success, how often these strategies are used, and what a teacher believes is important to a certain course (Barkely, p. 43). The data from this type of survey puts assessing student engagement and expectations in the hands of both the institution, who can then implement change, and the instructor, who can then adapt lessons accordingly. Surveys I have seen used include questions like:
1 :(
5 :)
I like my textbook
My teacher respects me
I am happy with my class

This gives the institution very little concrete evidence about student expectations, the lessons being delivered, the goals of the specific program, etc. Surveys should be given on an institutional level to audit the reality of the classroom experience to close the gap between what teachers think is happening and what is actually happening. 

Also, these surveys should happen on a daily basis in a classroom context using CLASSE documents and reflection techniques. Daily feedback could be as simple as:

The best part of today’s session for me was…because…

If I had the chance to redesign today’s session, I would …

I also wanted to say/observe/suggest/ask

A special thanks to my creative writing instructor John Mavin for this example of daily feedback. Also, here is a link for more Resources for Giving Feedback that teachers can use from the Feedback Champions. Teachers will then hopefully stop viewing classed as “their class” and take a more holistic approach, which takes into consideration the student experience.

As Academic Coordinator, I have created a Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG), modified from, for students currently taking the Pathway Program at ILAC. The questionnaire is divided into categories including understanding, skills, attitudes, integration of learning and pathway expectations. Survey is located on the left-hand column of this blog.

In addition to this survey, I will create on to give to teachers of this program. The categories will include: teaching strategies, assessment techniques, student engagement, administrative support, and pathway expectations. It is important for both students and teachers to see what the course is designed to do in relation to articulation agreements made between the school and partner schools. So this final category called pathway expectations will include questions about what the colleges and universities expect graduated from this program to demonstrate.

Based on these results, I hope to make program improvements and use the enigma of feedback to my advantage.

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
John Hattie (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers. Quoted in PIDP discussion forum April 21, 2016.


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