How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students with Support from WebAssign

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Delivering effective, valuable feedback to students is essential to the learning process. Students need to know not only that they got the answer right or wrong, but also the appropriate process to get to the correct answer so they can master the material. Although feedback is important, many instructors may limit their responses or skip this step due to time constraints and large course sizes. With that, we asked our faculty community to provide their tips and strategies for delivering effective feedback to students.


Different Approaches to Feedback

As you deliver feedback to students you need to determine the types of feedback that would be most beneficial based on their learning style and progress.

Automated Feedback in WebAssign

Some instructors, such as Scott Crawford from Texas A&M University, teach large courses that consist of hundreds of students. These instructors say personalized feedback is almost impossible. Instead, Professor Crawford uses automatic feedback in WebAssign to support students.

Automated feedback in WebAssign is built right into questions and may appear in the form of learning support, hints or detailed solutions depending on your course and title. Learning support such as Master It tutorials allow students to walk through the steps required to get the correct answer. Then, after the assignment due date, students can go back into the assignment to view the answer key and worked out solutions for each problem, if available.

“Using WebAssign allows students to see immediately whether they are right or wrong and allows them a chance to correct their mistakes. The option to “try another problem” lets them practice with different numbers, and there is a solution box to walk them through the answer.” – Scott Crawford, Texas A&M University

Instructor Feedback

When automated feedback isn’t available, or you plan to deliver additional feedback to students, you’ll want to determine the type of feedback the student needs to be successful.

One instructor breaks down feedback into three core sections: What went well, what was missing and how to improve. They also encourage discussion, empowering the student to review the feedback and ask questions.

Wendiann Sethi from Seton Hall University approaches feedback by helping students identify where they’ve made a mistake and letting them know when they have the process correct but may have used incorrect numbers or expressions. However, Melissa Reid from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College goes even deeper and customizes her feedback to each specific student based on their unique needs and learning styles.

“Each student has different needs and learning styles, so I try to tailor my responses based on what that individual student needs. For example, some students prefer that I create a video walking through a concept or a problem, while others prefer that I write out the steps with an explanation.” – Melissa Reid, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College


The Time and Place for Feedback

Once you’ve identified the types of feedback you plan to provide students, you’ll want to develop a plan for when and how to deliver the message to students effectively.

Feedback Timing

Our faculty community unanimously agreed that the right time for feedback is always. Students benefit from consistent feedback including positive and constructive sentiments that motivates and guides them through the material.

One instructor sends personalized emails to students each week letting them know how they’re doing. However, if you teach a large class, you may not have the time. Instead, you could limit your feedback as Wendiann Sethi does. Professor Sethi provides her feedback on students’ quizzes and periodic tests using some of the time-saving tips below. This allows students to utilize these materials along with the feedback as study tools for future exams.

Delivery Methods

Most of our faculty partners say that you should deliver the feedback within the assignment where the mistake took place. This helps students view the feedback with context so they can apply it to future assignments.

Many instructors incorporate feedback into graded assignments. However, one faculty member suggested that students should be provided feedback within the assignment where there is an opportunity to revise their work and resubmit or try again. This helps students focus on learning, not grading.

Although it makes sense in the learning process to provide feedback to students in the same place the error occurred, Hal Kingsley from SUNY Buffalo State has also found that students are more likely to be receptive and respond to feedback when given it in person, rather than online. Other instructors agree and suggest that in addition to giving feedback within assignments, you should encourage students to reach out through email or office hours to discuss the feedback further. This also helps students that may prefer a different form of feedback based on their learning style.

WebAssign Tip: Enable the Show My Work tool on difficult questions which will allow students to show their work and give you the option to respond and provide feedback right within the question.


Save Time While Providing Feedback

One of the benefits of small courses is the ability to provide a more personalized experience to students. But, if you’re one of the many instructors that teach a large course, this level of attention is extremely difficult. However, our faculty community has some tips for delivering personalized feedback to large courses.

Develop a Rubric

Many instructors like Wendiann Sethi suggest utilizing a rubric for feedback. This enables instructors to craft feedback based on specific errors. They can then repurpose that same feedback for multiple students wherever it applies. Professor Sethi also appreciates that this empowers her to ensure her feedback and grading is consistent and helpful.

Repurpose Feedback Materials

Melissa Reid keeps organized folders with feedback videos. Whenever she creates a video for a student, Professor Reid labels the video and organizes it in a folder. This empowers her to easily access the video whenever students request examples of the same concept or example, which is a huge time saver.

Deliver Feedback to the Entire Class

If multiple students are struggling with the same problem, Wendiann Sethi circles back during class to go over the problem and ensure the students are using the correct strategy. Don’t forget: You can easily identify which homework problems or topics your students are struggling with in Class Insights.

Trey Cherry, an instructor from Edgecombe Community College, tries to incorporate some type of useful class-wide feedback on a weekly basis. It could be a deadline reminder, a tip for a topic that generally trips up students or just a reminder that they’re available if students need help.

Utilize Discussion Boards

Brien Dunn from Louisiana Delta Community College and Scott Crawford from Texas A&M University utilize discussion boards for feedback. Whether you’re using the discussion board in WebAssign or in your LMS, it can be an easy way for students to ask questions and get feedback from you as well as other students. You can easily respond with text, links and videos to help answer the question. Plus, all students can see your response to their question.

Professor Dunn recommends designing your course around discussion boards. Requiring participation as part of their grade helps to maintain a consistent loop of peer and instructor feedback.


Key Takeaways

  • Each student is unique and may require a different type of feedback
  • Identify the types of feedback you believe your students need to be successful
  • Align on a plan for delivering feedback to students including cadence and delivery methods
  • Utilize time-saving strategies including creating a rubric, repurposing feedback materials and delivering feedback to multiple students at one time


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