Feedback Loops

All, Teaching Tips

One of the lessons I learned during our first season of pandemic teaching and learning was that I needed to be more deliberate in the planning of my feedback loops. Feedback loops were also in the forefront of my thinking as I created my HyperDoc templates – especially my lesson template. It is so much easier to work feedback loops into a class when you are together in a room (at least to start the process), but as I watch my online feedback loops unfold I know that it is possible to create meaningful feedback loops in an online classroom too. Here’s how I do it.

Step Back

Remember: this is not about you. It is so easy to fall into the trap and believe me I am often super enthusiastic about my students’ work and I want to jump in. Resist this temptation. Put the focus and the expectation on the students to offer feedback. I usually follow a rule of three, you must offer three comments for every original post of your own, but more often I give a specific instruction which leads to my next tip. I drop in to check on participation and posting to correct or redirect as necessary but content myself with a class letter rather than individual responses.

Make It Meaningful

Just requiring or expecting a generic comment or response can lead to some pretty weak sauce one-way interactions. I have learned to give more specific instructions that require students to interact more deeply with the work of their peers as well as think about how the ideas of others connect with their thinking. For example, in my Values activity students created a Snap that explains their personal values which they then shared with the class. In the past I might simply have had students comment on each others’ snaps and called it a day, but this year I had them search through those value snaps looking for values that reflected or intersected with their own and then comment on that connection. My hope is that this process will help us build our class community and help my students develop empathy for others by recognizing that we have shared bonds as well as differences, but even more I hope this practice will extend beyond this one lesson.

Build It In

This semester I am building in those iterative loops where students are expected to spend some quality time with the ideas and work of their peers for every round of interaction. No more one-way streets. I hope that making this a regular practice for the class will help my students develop this habit, this reflex, that will reap rewards as we gradually engage with more deeper thinking and more complex writing tasks. My hope is that my students will develop this habit and apply it to their engagement with texts and ideas beyond our class. My hope is that I will break the cycle of simply listening/reading just enough to respond from their gut without engaging either head or heart. If I can help my students become more critical thinkers then I am well satisfied.

As I watch the first round of feedback loops spiral out in my classes I am pleased with the process and hope the work that we do together will reap many rewards. Feedback loops should bring us together as a community and teach us valuable critical thinking practices as well as keep us in touch with our humanity. Front-loading my feedback loop work also makes it easier for me to support the process when necessary and reap the rewards when it sustains itself. What are some of the keys to your successful feedback loops?

Artwork via Fotosearch


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