Are Your Students Getting Enough Feedback?

Student typing on laptop and giving feedback
"professors spend approximately 18 hours a week grading papers, assignments and discussion threads"... Relatable?

The Struggles of Facilitating Feedback

Research has shown that professors spend approximately 18 hours a week grading papers, assignments and discussion threads. This accounts for 45.67% of the total time professors allocate to various instructional activities for online teaching.

Obviously, this imposes a huge burden on professors and solutions to alleviate the heavy grading workload rely on increasing faculty numbers such as hiring more TAs. However, with the reduction in higher ed budgets triggered by the pandemic, it is less likely that TAs will be available to provide the support professors need to grade hundreds of written assignments.

This gives professors the choice to either administer more summative assessments and multiple choice-based exams which are time-convenient but less ideal for developing critical thinking skills or carry the burden of manually grading papers and assignments for the sake of providing quality education. Either way, both options leave professors fewer opportunities to provide regular feedback that are meaningful and relevant to their students’ current academic progress and goals. This lack of feedback brought by the labour-intensive nature of teaching large classes is correlated to students performing less ideal in their academics and professional careers.

Considering the increasing class sizes in first-year and upper-year courses (Cash et al., 2027), it is no doubt that students are receiving less feedback due to the lack of faculty resources and capacity. Grading 100 to 800+ students while constantly providing quality constructive criticism to individuals is just not feasible in a traditional lecture-based education system.

In multiple studies on effective strategies for applied sciences and STEM courses, it was determined that the absence of professor and TA feedback results in students relying on themselves to critically analyze their own credibility, strengths and weaknesses. This method is beneficial to developing academic reflection skills but is heavily subjected to biased self-knowledge. A psychological research on self-assessment has shown that there are weak correlations between student ability estimates and performance (Karpen, 2018). Furthermore, the lack of feedback can be perceived by students as a confirmation of their abilities and skills which deters them from further self-assessment due to the lack of guidance and external perspectives.

Receiving and Providing Feedback

Receiving feedback is an essential aspect of the learning process as it allows individuals to learn and internalize their strengths and weaknesses. Not only do students improve through the comparative assessments facilitated by feedback, but they also learn to critically consider other people’s opinions and ideas in a professional manner (Shute, 2008). This life lesson is not taught as much in the current education system and is important not only to their academic success but also for their professional growth. In academia and the workplace, feedback is often provided by higher authorities and learning to be receptive to it with an open mind is an essential lesson for every individual. Understanding how to properly receive feedback is the first part of the equation.

Providing feedback is the second part and is as essential for students to learn. By being able to digest information and different perspectives to identify other people’s strengths and weaknesses, not only are they helping their peers to improve but they learn to provide constructive criticism in a manner that is actionable and motivational. This skill is vital in the workplace as well as it strengthens relationships which improves productivity, workflow and output.

However, as mentioned earlier, students are less exposed to feedback due to faculty time constraints. It has also been identified that frequent feedback is required for ideal academic performance but due to course limitations, students have fewer opportunities to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. As such, it is important to find assessment alternatives that facilitate the receipt and provision of feedback to enhance students’ learning experience and outcome.

Enter Kritik

Kritik’s calibrated peer grading solution enables accurate and authentic student-to-student evaluations and feedback. Through the platform, students anonymously provide regular constructive criticism on their peers' work which increases course engagement levels and improves academic performance. Our survey on students’ learning outcomes using peer grading and feedback has shown that 84% of the students learned at a deeper level by evaluating their peers’ work.

The use of Kritik and peer-assessment, specifically in the STEM field, has shown to be integral for a quality online learning experience as students are given the opportunity to frequently analyze multiple perspectives and reflect on their own skills. Through Kritik’s peer grading process, students are empowered to constantly develop their ability to receive and provide feedback with approximately 63% of students saying that they became better evaluators after a few iterations.

Conclusion

Feedback is an integral part of students’ learning process and academic growth. However, faculty resources are limited and a large amount of professors’ time is spent towards grading. Coupled with course limitations and higher ed budget cuts, students are less exposed to feedback which affects their ability to improve their knowledge and skills.

Furthermore, receiving and providing feedback is not taught as much in the current education system. Thus, it is essential to find effective pedagogies that facilitate regular feedback without the heavy grading burden on professors. Peer grading solutions like Kritik enables students to frequently provide and receive genuine, accurate and informative evaluations which reduce the overall turnaround time for feedback and increase professors’ ability to coach students more often.

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AMA. (2019, January 24). Why it's worth learning how to give feedback. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://www.amanet.org/articles/why-it-s-worth-learning-how-to-give-feedback/

Cash, C. B., Letargo, J., Graether, S. P., & Jacobs, S. R. (2017). An analysis of the perceptions and resources of large university classes. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 16(2). doi:10.1187/cbe.16-01-0004

Karpen, S. C. (2018). The social psychology of Biased Self-Assessment. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 82(5), 6299. doi:10.5688/ajpe6299

Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-189. doi:10.3102/0034654307313795

Jay Arias
Education Researcher

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