Providing students feedback on their work is crucial to their learning process; formative feedback helps them to experiment with knowledge and skills, while summative feedback checks for the learning completed toward meeting course goals. Regardless of class mode, faculty and TAs can provide valuable feedback to students in a number of ways that is both informative for students and efficient for faculty members. In this step of developing your assessment plan, you can consider is who actually provides the feedback: the professor or TA (experts), peers in the class, or LMS software like Canvas (automated). We look at each of the three options below.
Providing students feedback on their work is crucial to their learning process; formative feedback helps them to experiment with knowledge and skills, while summative feedback checks for the learning completed toward meeting course goals. Regardless of class mode, faculty can provide valuable feedback to students in a number of ways that is both informative for students and efficient for faculty members. One step to consider is who actually provides the feedback - the professor or TA (experts), peers in the class, or LMS software like Canvas (automated). We look at each of the three options below.
Expert feedback is provided by the faculty instructor or TA. Experts rely on their knowledge of the material to assess and grade the assignment, often with a rubric as a guide to be more transparent and efficient. Students benefit from expert feedback that helps them to learn to think like an expert by pointing out errors, offering suggestions for improvement, and showing them progress toward achieving the course objectives.
The most common ways of delivering expert feedback are through hand-written or typed comments directly on the student work or on a grading rubric. Other options available in Canvas can also be used to complete grading more efficiently than with writing without sacrificing quality of feedback to improve student learning:
- Use VoiceThread to record your audio feedback
- Use Gradescope to annotate images of student work such as code, problems sets, and diagrams.
- Use SpeedGrader to give narrative comments on an uploaded assignment.
- Use Kaltura to video-record your screen as you talk a student through your feedback as you move through the actual deliverable.
- Create "codes" for common errors on assignments in your course. You and your TA can then grade using the codes in place of written or long typed comments. Students can use the code sheet to interpret the feedback. For example, you might have a list of the 10 most comments you make, and when you see an error, you simply write the number next to it rather than the whole comment. Then you can spend your grading time targeting featuresof the work unique t o each student. You can also use Macros in the desktop version of Word to do this work.
Audio and video feedback using VoiceThread and Kaltura can be especially valuable in remote and hybrid environments because, in hearing your voice, students are better able to interpret nuance and to connect with you as the instructor in ways that written feedback does not foster.
Expert feedback can take a significant amount of time, especially in large courses, so developing ways to grade that is effective, efficient, and equitable is crucial. Rubrics offer one way to do this.
Peer feedback is an excellent alternative to expert feedback in a variety of situations, especially for lower-stakes assignments and work in its early stages. While you might question how students can be knowledgeable enough to assess their peers' work, with some training and advice from you, as well as a clear rubric or set of criteria, students can offer quality feedback to peers that goes beyond "looks good to me" or "I like your paper."
Here are some peer review implementations to consider:
- Provide students with the assignment rubric, and ask them to review their peers’ work against the rubric. Students then have specific criteria to guide their feedback and comments. This can work well for paper drafts, individual or group presentations, and data analyses.
- Put students into small groups, and ask them to compare their responses to a homework prompt, problem set, or quiz. Their goal is to negotiate with each other to some to a consensus on the correct responses, which they will then submit as a team for final grading. This activity allows students to learn from peers and to learn how to support their own ideas.
- After a homework, problem set, or quiz is due, provide students with the solutions, and ask them to grade two other students’ work. This can be done in small groups or anonymously through Canvas. Dr. Joel Sokol talk about how he uses this strategy in his large online OMS courses in the podcast episode below.
- After receiving feedback, have students write a summary of their peers’ feedback and reflect on how they plan to address the comments moving forward, perhaps in a revision or future assignment. Adding this reflection helps students process the feedback and learn to integrate outside views of their work.
- Ask students to provide insights on how they and each of their group members contributed to a project. (See this page on for advice on maintaining equity in grading group projects.).
To ensure students are giving and receiving accurate and insightful feedback, also consider how you might set students up for success in this task. You can support students by
- Explaining to students why peer review is a valuable exercise in critical thinking and communication as well as an opportunity to learn from peers.
- Offering specific guidelines for how and when the feedback will be given – synchronously or asynchronously.
- Providing a rubric, solution set, or a clear prompt for providing feedback as well as a sample of respectful and valuable feedback.
- Creating an approach that builds in accountability to ensure students take getting and receiving feedback seriously.
Additional Peer Review Resources
Frame Your Feedback: Making Peer Review Work in Class (Faculty Focus)
Peer Assessment in Online Courses (Brown University)
Teaching Students to Evaluate Each Other (Cornell University)
Using Peer Review to Improve Student Writing (University of Michigan)
Grading Methods for Group Work (Carnegie Mellon University)
Bonus Resource In this episode of the Center for Teaching and Learning's podcast, the Teaching & Learning Buzz, three experienced Georgia Tech faculty who regularly or exclusively teach online offer suggestions for how to use peer feedback to help student learn the materials, contribute to students' professional development, and to lighten the grading load, especially when using alternate assessment in a remote environment. (Download transcript here.)
Using automated feedback options allows you to pre-load responses or frequently used comments that can then lessen the grading load while still providing students with feedback and opportunities to learn from their mistakes.
For example, use the Quiz tool in Canvas. When creating a quiz or test with multiple choice, fill in the blanks, numerical answer, and formula questions, you can input which answer to a question is correct and rationales for why the other options are incorrect. Canvas will then score the assignment accordingly.