Your Feedback Practices Matter

Storytime… About 20 years ago, I was looking to refocus my career. I had an interest in library science, so I found an online program and singed up for two courses with the intent of matriculating in the master’s program before the deadline during which I was to study.

The two courses were interesting. I was generally engaged with the topics, and I completed the work and assignments. In one of the courses, the instructor seemed content on playing “gotcha” with his students. There was a sophisticated procedure for downloading and beginning tests and if they were not returned before the time expired, we earned a zero. We also had a very specific template to follow when submitting other work and the feedback followed a template. If was efficient, but stressful and one got the sense it was generated by an algorithm.

The other class was the worst feedback experience I expect any student ever experienced. My classmates and I had a number of emails circulating, each with the question, “Has anyone gotten any grades yet?” At then end of the semester, we had each turned in four assignments. None of us had received so much as a word of feedback. We had received two emails from the instructor, each indicating “I’m way behind, but should be caught up this week.”

To make the long story short, I did not apply for admission to that school. The take-away is (to me clear). There are students who are serious about their studies and want instructors’ feedback. (I estimate these are the majority of our students). At least one student has made the decision to not enroll in a program because the faculty demonstrated they did not have the capacity to give good feedback. I’m not sure any of us can afford to loose students die to this cause.