Monday, September 3, 2018

Best Practices for Providing Effective Feedback

Description: Our research involved creating training webinars for instructors to go over best practices for providing feedback and to highlight how to implement these best practices in ANT 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Instructors were also provided with a copy of Nancy Sommers’ book Responding to Student Writers, which we discussed in the context of ANT 101. Instructors were encouraged to audit their own grading feedback in order to implement best practices.

Written assignments make up the majority of points in most classes at Ashford. Instructors need to understand best practices for providing comments that students will understand and use. Ineffective commenting can overwhelm and de-motivate students. Students in general education classes often need extra help and attention.

Grades are often tied to self-esteem and a student’s sense of self (Crocker, 2002). Research shows that students want to receive a balance of encouraging and critical feedback (Turnitin, 2016). They want to hear both suggestions for improving upon weaknesses and also positive feedback on their strengths. It is helpful when instructors point out where students have met assignment criteria, rather than just where they have fallen short. Students shy away from feedback that includes personal evaluations of their ability; they prefer feedback that discusses issues in their work and includes advice on how to improve (Turnitin, 2016). Future-oriented comments are helpful and send the message that instructors see students as capable of improving (Weimar, 2012).

Good comments create connections and point out patterns (Sommers, 2013). Comments may identify connections to specific assignments, to earlier drafts, to patterns identified throughout the student’s work, or to comments/questions the student has raised earlier. In addition to pointing out specific areas for improvement, instructors should contextualize feedback and draw connections between other assignments and activities in the class. This context will help students to understand the purpose of the instructor’s comments and what to do with that feedback.

Crocker, J. (2002). The costs of seeking self-esteem. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 597-615.

Sommers, N. (2013). Responding to student writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Turnitin. (2016). From here to there: Students’ perceptions on feedback goals, barriers, and effectiveness [White paper]. Retrieved October 12, 2016 from  

Weimer, M. (2012). Getting students to act on our feedback. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from:

Bio: Dr. Bethany Heywood is lead faculty and an Assistant Professor in the Entry Point & Social Science department that is part of the Division of General Education at Ashford University. She earned her PhD in Anthropological Studies with a focus on the Cognitive Science of Religion from the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Religion from the University of Vermont.    

Dr. Emma K. Bate is part of the core faculty in the Entry Point & Social Science department that is part of the Division of General Education at Ashford University. She has a PhD and a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Indiana University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Wake Forest University. Since 1997, Dr. Bate has conducted archaeological fieldwork in The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Greece, and Indiana. She taught archaeology and physical anthropology at Indiana University, Butler University, and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) while in graduate school from 2000 to 2010.



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