As a former High School English teacher, I have experienced the overwhelming tsunami of having to provide feedback on a weekly basis to ~150 students. Between that experience and my more recent experiences teaching online students, I've thought a lot about providing feedback on student writing and student products.
Before we jump in to resources and tips, I want to make one thing abundantly clear. Providing feedback is not the same as a giving a grade. I subscribe to the Dr. Jeff Grabill school of thinking on this who responded to me once in this way: "Grading is too late for revision feedback." So what I mean when I say feedback is that an instructor or peer provides information to the student about the student's product in a manner that allows the student to then revise the product for the better. So what are some ways to manage the time-consuming task of giving students opportunities to receive feedback?
1.Verbal feedback is powerful. In face-to-face settings, we call this "conferencing." A student and teacher (or student and student) read and respond to the piece of writing or other product under construction. In online courses, this can be more difficult to manage. Google Hangouts allow for synchronous conferencing with the added bonus of integrating with Google Docs. In one course online course I taught, we used Jing to provide Screencasted feedback on student's in-progress online course designs (I know: an online course about designing online courses. How lucky am I?) TechSmith has recently revamped their screencasting services, and have provided a great tutorial on providing personalized feedback using ScreenChomp.
2. Asynchronous written feedback: From old-fashioned comments scribbled in the margins to newly developing collaborative software, I would hazard a guess that the majority of feedback students receive is of this variety. Within the disciplines, it may be most important to focus on discipline-specific nuances of the writing, and feedback should focus on the ways the arguments are made. In more developmental writing courses, the focus might be on best ways of making meaning or lengthening pieces. (I still don't believe marking every grammatical mistake helps anyone. But that's another post). Students should be given feedback that they immediately can apply to improve the quality of the product, whatever it is. In terms of feedback on a piece of writing, Google Docs is impressive for its commenting feature. I also enjoy reflecting on my own revision history (a Google Docs feature), especially once I've received feedback on my own writing. This type of reflection is another way to help developing writers make the growth of their writing more visible. In terms of facilitating peer feedback, which is incredibly powerful if done correctly, I've seen no equal to the Eli Review (full disclosure: I know the creators from Michigan State). For instructors seeking a better way to facilitate the peer review process, Eli allows for not only the feedback, but for all involved to assess the quality of the feedback.
In the end, feedback needs to be provided in a timely manner, during the process of creation, and well before the final product is assessed.
What are your favorite tools for facilitating student feedback? Let us know in the comments!