What’s all the Fuss About Feedback?

Last week’s “Engaged!” article discussed how instructors can “show up” to class online by providing and receiving feedback. Why is feedback so important? Feedback could be considered a dialogue, interaction, or a communication process to gather information. The practical purpose of communication is to get others to behave the way we want. If your students are not doing what you want, could communication be a factor?

Providing Early and Continuous Feedbackwoman-791185_1920

A common challenge to online student success is that students are not clear on the instructions or due dates. A way to provide continuous feedback is to Email a reminder to all students who have not completed the assignment before it is due. Research suggests that learning experiences will be more successful for all people involved when feedback is provided early (Whiteside, Dikkers, & Lewis, 2017). Creating supportive online learning environments means the instructor needs a communication plan that includes a feedback schedule, communication modes (e.g. rubric, grade center, Email, announcement, assignment markup, web-conference, etc.), and automated responses that could be copied and pasted to maximize personalized feedback without taking too much time. The communication plan will help instructors stay organized, thus able to provide early and continuous feedback.

Giving FIDeLity Feedback

Fidelity means that someone is loyal or faithful, especially in promises. It is also an acronym that Dee Fink uses to describe feedback that is Frequent, Immediate, Discriminating, and delivered Lovingly. I know it is difficult to get assessments graded quickly, but if we want students to behave in a certain manner, they must be informed immediately. Fink says, “frequent feedback occurs weekly” and “immediate feedback occurs very close in time to the learning activity itself.” Discriminating feedback is communication that clearly informs the students how they did as it relates to the standards, rubric, or criterion that was hopefully already given to them. Of course, the discriminating feedback should be written in a caring manner so the message being sent to the student will not be distorted by psychological noise. Communication scholars call psychological noise a force within that interferes with the ability to understand a message accurately.  Students will better be able to adapt to the expectations of the course with FIDeLity feedback.

Requesting Feedback

Another way to engage students is to solicit feedback about your teaching. This sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be.  Fink recommends that instructors change continuously. Student feedback could trigger an idea for an improvement that might make your class more exciting to you and your students.  In their books, both Fink and Palloff and Pratt suggest using multiple sources of feedback that are formative and summative. In a face-to-face course, you can request a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) from the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning or use sticky notes to solicit feedback.  You could create short surveys in Blackboard and make them available to your students every four or five weeks. You could web-conference with each online student to find out how they feel they are doing in the course, which opens the conversation to ask what you could do to help them succeed.  In all of these scenarios, you engage your students.


Fink, L. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses (1st ed., Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series). San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. pp. 82-83, 95-96.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, Keith. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Whiteside, A. L., Dikkers, A. G., & Lewis, S. (2017). Overcoming isolation online. In Whiteside, A. L., Dikkers, A. G., & Swan, K (Eds.). Social presence in online learning (pp. 180-187). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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