Engaging Learners with Online Feedback

Earle's hints and tips

Engaging learners with online feedback

Earle Abrahamson

Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy: University of East London, UK

"It’s reinforcing how students can improve, and more importantly, transform the way they think and learn. Turnitin provides a wonderful platform for actually showing students what good writing is”.

As a Senior Lecturer in Sports Therapy at the University of East London, UK Earle teaches in a very practical subject area where students often struggle with the concepts of academic writing. Earle uses Turnitin to model good academic writing for his students enabling them to understand that feedback is integral to the the learning process and not merely a by-product.

Here he offers some tips on how Turnitin can be used to enhance the feedback process and develop feedforward mechanisms to optimise students’ learning and academic development:

1. Use a RAG traffic light system when feeding back to students:

    •    Green light comments illustrate areas of good writing and sound argument development. The assessor uses these comments to encourage the student to consider using more of this writing style throughout the assigned submission.    

    •    Yellow light comments are used to highlight areas of development, wherein the student has previously made errors. These comments are used to aid development and ultimately convert yellow into green light comments.

    •    Red light comments are used to illustrate at risk areas that present problems in reading and comprehending the written text. These comments serve to emphasise how writing can be rearranged or orchestrated differently to present a tighter/smarter account of the issue. Students are given the opportunity to work with the university’s writing team to transform any at risk areas.

2. Publicise what good writing is. Use student work, with their permission, to show other students what good writing is. Building on from the first tip, the green light comments could be organised into a catalogue of writing examples. Students tend to appreciate reviewing and/or viewing other students submissions. Learning with, and from, peers is a powerful learning technique.

3. Use multiple channels for feeding back to students. Turnitin has an audio record tab. A short focused audio file, makes the feedback more personal and students tend to relate to the way in which the feedback is delivered. Focus on what the student is doing well, and then consider how they could improve their work. Think carefully about how the feedback is being received and the reason for feeding back.

4. Use subtle background music during the audio feedback. Background music creates another listening channel and can be inviting for students. However the choice of music or background sounds needs to be carefully considered. The aim is to enhance the feedback not detract from it.

5. Give students the opportunity to reflect upon their feedback. Ask them to provide comment on the level and depth of the feedback they receive. It is also important to ask students how they intend to use the feedback to improve their work.

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