A teacher needs to provide feedback that is timely. When we completed a task, our brain shelves it and quickly moves on to the next task. For the feedback to be relevant, it needs to be delivered in time for the feedback to be matched up with the original task. If the feedback is delayed, it is of little value to the student.
I am currently taking two online math classes and the teachers have very different approaches to the timeliness of feedback. The first teacher has consistently graded homework assignments in less than 48 hours from submission, and often has it done the next day. This allows me the opportunity to review the feedback while the material is still fresh in my mind. The other class has had a much greater lag in getting assignments graded. In particular, it was 24 days between the day I took the mid-term exam and when I received the grade for it. At that point, I have no recollection of anything that was on the test, other than it was multiple-choice with one question that required a written proof – similar to writing an essay. It is nice that I got a good grade that was in line with my expectations, but the time gap is too great to put the score into meaningful context.
A teacher also needs to provide feedback that is consistently high quality. Two important aspects are that it be user-friendly and actionable. If the feedback is not accessible by the students and does not provide insight on how to improve, the feedback is useless.
Let us turn again to my current online class experiences. The teacher that provides very timely turnaround provides feedback that is consistently of low quality. The first problem is the hand written comments are very difficult to read. This is problematic because the lessons entail the use of mathematical symbols. The second problem is that con
tent of the feedback provided. This instructor’s feedback can be placed in one of two categories: “Wrong” and “Here is what the correct answer was.” This is not actionable. The instructor has provided little to no assistance to help the student understand what they have done wrong.
Providing timely, high quality feedback is an essential part of student success. It also reflects a level of empathy for the journey the student is undertaking. It is not uncommon for teachers to specialize in a subject they enjoy and excel in. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that not all students enjoy your subject or have the innate gifts that make success in that subject come easy. Further, if you expect your students to do high quality work and turn it in on time, you also have the obligation to do the same.