Dear Dr. Kirk:
I need advice on giving feedback to my students. I always struggle with what and how much to say.
Speechless in Seattle
A colleague and friend of mine, Timothy Johnson at CarpeFactum provides some great advice on giving feedback to a colleague that could be adapted when we're giving feedback to our students. Use the acronym THIRD...
TIMELY. Feedback must be timely in order to give your students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better on the next assignment. As Tim notes, "feedback has a shelf life, and the sooner you can tell the person what s/he did right or wrong, the stronger the message will be."
HONEST. Although we need to use sensitivity in giving feedback, we shouldn't water down the message so much that the student doesn't get the message. Be direct and say what it would take to make the paper or assignment better.
IMPROVING. Make sure your feedback provides constructive criticism. It doesn't do the student any good to give a grade without indicating why they got the grade and how they can improve for future assignments. Sharing your rubric is a good way to do this.
RELEVANT. I had a Dean once that gave me a lower than expected evaluation on my teaching during my annual review. When I asked him what I could do to improve, he responded by telling me I needed to use powerpoint slides in the classroom... Make sure your feedback makes sense.
DIRECT. If your student needs to get help with grammar or writing techniques, say so and put him or her in touch with resources available at your university.
Bumping up the quality of your feedback by a THIRD will help your students learn your expectations and do better on future assignments.