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July 2013

Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also. - C.G. Jung


The traditional course assessment form completed at the end of a course and used to determine student satisfaction with a course provides data for summative assessment of the course. However, these data come too late in the course to be useful for ongoing and continuous improvement of the course while active instruction and learning are occurring. Methods to gather data about the teaching and the learning during the course are useful to allow continuous and ongoing improvement of the course when this improvement can affect the teaching and learning activities. The topic of this paper addresses ways that common Blackboard tools can be used to gather feedback.

Tests as a Feedback Tool

Tests allow you to create assessments using a step-by-step method. One of the important features of Tests is the feature allowing student feedback for individual answers. With this tool, you can display a response for a correct answer (providing reinforcement) and a response for an incorrect answer (clarifying why another selection is more appropriate). This tool is useful if your intent is to provide feedback to students.

Another valuable feature of Tests allows the instructor, during the test deployment stage, to record number of attempts on the assessment or to restrict attempts to a single attempt.

Another view of feedback using Tests is to create self-assessments for students to use throughout the course to gauge their mastery of material. One way to do this to create a pool of questions presented to students in the form of practice tests throughout the course. Students benefit by exposure to course concepts, feedback on strengths and weaknesses, and familiarity with your questioning style. Many instructors suggest giving minimal credit to these assignments to ensure that students take the practice tests seriously.

If your intent is to provide feedback or to point students to the textbook or other readings so they better understand course content, remember that you have a great deal of control on what you include as the comment for an incorrect answer. As an example, you may point the student to the exact phrase or section of the text where they should look for further information.

Surveys as a Feedback Tool

Surveys are often used to gather information on teaching effectiveness and the organization of the course content. Surveys allow instructors to quickly develop surveys to gauge students’ perceptions of the course or the instructor’s style. One advantage with Blackboard surveys is student anonymity. Seeking feedback without having responses tied to student identifiers may yield more accurate and meaningful feedback.

Discussion Boards for Feedback

For unique assignments like papers or projects, you can have the student post the assignment to the discussion board. One advantage is that learners get to see other examples and reflect on their own work. Some instructors believe that the quality of work improves when students know their peers will see the assignment.

The Virtual Classroom or Chat for Feedback

The virtual classroom and chat functions can be used to administer virtual, oral examinations for students to provide feedback on student understanding. If you have a need to gather evidence on how students are able to quickly respond to content questions, this method allows you to do this from a distance. You and the student agree on a time for the meeting. You generate a list of questions that you will type during the meeting and pose these questions throughout the time span. It is important to remember that typing is an intimidating skill for some students; so take care to clarify that quality is the key consideration. Instructors also have the option to provide feedback, prompts, and encouragement throughout the session.

Additional Feedback Options

Comments on Assignments

Feedback on course assignments is important for quality learning. An instructor’s failure to provide feedback may be interpreted by students in a variety of ways, most negative. Some may believe the instructor is impersonal and uncaring. Students state that feedback helps them improve and reduces the tendency to make similar mistakes again. Students seem to want a clear standard against which to judge the feedback. Students appreciate comments that are detailed and focused on specific areas of their work. Positive, improvement-oriented comments are also important in the students’ view.

Feedback can be delivered by downloading student assignments to your desktop and using TrackChanges and Comments feature in MS Word. General feedback on assignments can use the e-mail feature of Blackboard to send personal feedback to students.
You can also record comments via Grade Center. This is useful for quick general comments to students.

Additional Test Questions

Consider adding several items to a regular exam or quiz asking students to respond to items such as how the class is going, how well they are understanding course concepts, how well the exam measured their learning, etc. Dependent upon how you structure the exam, you have several options for how these items are handled for grading.

Virtual Interaction for Rapid Feedback

The Virtual Classroom or Chat functions allow you to schedule sessions with one student or several students to ask questions about content and your teaching style. These sessions provide a valuable opportunity to clarify misconceptions or misinterpretations of course content and provide insight into how the students perceive the course.

Item Analysis of Examinations

Blackboard allows the instructor to call for details on examinations. This provides information on percentage of correct responses and percentage of incorrect responses by answer. Using this function allows the instructor to look for patterns of errors and use this information to correct misconceptions. If you notice patterns where numerous students had the same difficulty with an item, Blackboard can be used to send a message to the entire class, clarifying the item or misconception.

Comments Through Grade Center

Instructors have the ability to give students comments on any gradebook item.

Comments Through Assignments

Instructors have the ability to give students comments on any Assignment item.

page last updated 4/15/2014 8:32 PM