Providers of Feedback
The first possible provider of feedback for participants of K-12 online or blended professional development is automated responses. This is usually available through online programs that can immediately let the learner know whether or not they answered a question correctly. This type of feedback is usually only helpful for ensuring that the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Adams, 2015) have been met. While this method may not allow for a great deal of depth or demonstration of the student’s ability to apply, synthesize, or create knowledge, it does provide a way for students to receive feedback that is instant which can help them to learn the basic and background knowledge they need in order to move up to those higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and it provides instant feedback which has been proven to promote positive learning gains in students (El Saadawi, Azevedo, Castine, Payne, Medvedeva, Tseytlin, & Crowley, 2010).
In K-12 online and blended learning environments, this method can allow participants the ability to move through material at their own pace while getting feedback that can help keep them on the right track and motivated. For instance, a teacher who is learning about a new process or procedure that their school or district may be using might need to understand the new terminology that goes along with that process so they are better able to communicate with their colleagues about where they are or what they may need help on within that process or procedure. Using an automatically graded quiz or activity provides the participant the ability to review materials they got wrong or to move on to the next activity or level.
Students are capable of providing themselves with feedback. While this is a skill that must be learned, it is one that can have a positive effect on their learning and can promote metacognition (Siegesmund, 2017). There are three types of self-assessment that students can use to grow (Boud & Brew, 1995). The first is self-testing. This method allows students to check their knowledge against test items that have right or wrong answers. While this may sound like this is really automated feedback, the difference is that students seek these opportunities out for themselves.
Traditionally when instructors consider using this method, they imagine the student testing himself or herself through a multiple choice, short answer, matching assessment, but this can also be done through a trial and error approach. In a K-12 professional development model, this might be used by a teacher who is learning a new tool. He or she might test his or her knowledge of the tool usage through trial and error. The participant should know what the outcome they are looking to meet when they begin to self-test. For example, if a teacher is learning to use a program that will allow them to screencast a lesson for a blended lesson they are preparing to teach, they may test their ability to use their chosen screencasting tool to ensure they are able to meet the desired outcome before they are asked by their professional development provider to turn in an assessment that depicts their ability to do this.
Reflective questions are another way students can assess themselves (Boud & Brew, 1995). This method allows learners to reflect on and be critical of their learning. In a K-12 teacher professional development setting, participants may be resistant to this type of self-assessment because they do not see the value of it in comparison to the amount of time they have to engage in the activity. Self-reflection of learning provides teachers with the chance to evaluate what they are learning and to think through how their learning can be used to promote better student learning strategies. Because the goal of K-12 professional development is to create meaningful changes in the classroom environments of the teachers participating in the course, creating time and or circumstances for participants to engage in reflection is an important component for designers of these online and blended learning experiences to consider.
The final self-assessment strategy that can be implemented in these learning environments is self-rating (Boud & Brew, 1995). Through this strategy, students rate their own work in comparison to an exemplar piece or a rubric which explains the goals the learner should be striving to meet. To promote better student ownership and a better understanding of what is expected, instructors of online and blended learning courses can have students participate in the creation of the rubric or goals they must meet to be considered masters of the skill or objective.
K-12 professional development can use this strategy as a way for participants to prepare for self-reflection. For example, a professional development participant learns about a new strategy he or she can implement in his or her lesson plans. The participant implements this strategy into his or her lesson, then uses a self-rating tool to rate the success of the implementation. From there the participant can begin to reflect on his or her perceptions of how the implementation went and what he or she could do differently the next time they try to use the strategy in his or her classroom.
The use of self-assessment should be a regular part of K-12 online and blended teacher professional development courses (Siegesmund, 2017). Because these courses are built to promote better instruction in the classroom, teachers need the time, tools, and structures in place to participate in self-assessment that will allow them to learn and reflect on that learning in a meaningful way. Educators who can use this skill in a professional development course can continue to use this skill to improve their instructional methods as they seek professional development opportunities that are not laid out in a course format.
Instructor feedback is often perceived to be more valuable than any other type of feedback (Ertmer, Richardson, Belland, Camin, Connolly, Coulthard, & Mong, 2007). Because of this, instructor presence and response is vitally important to student motivation. Sadler (2010) explains that students need appraisal expertise to help understand feedback from an instructor. There are three areas that appraisal expertise relies on. The first is task compliance. This describes whether or not the student fulfilled the task requirements (Sadler, 2010).
In online and blended K-12 professional development courses, assignments often require participants to complete tasks with specific goals or objectives in mind. For instance, a participant may be asked to write a lesson plan that uses a strategy the professional development has just covered. When the plan is reviewed by the instructor, he or she may not see the implementation of the strategy within the plan that was turned in. The instructor’s feedback needs to be specific as to how the assignment does not meet the criteria set forth by the assignment. In many cases, this happens because students think they did fulfill the requirements, but they need more guidance to complete the task. Instructors can provide feedback that refers back to the expectations they set in the assignment’s guidelines and the materials used to teach the skills needed to help point the participant in the right direction to complete the assigned task.
Instructors of K-12 online and blended teacher professional development also requires that the instructor be able to judge the quality of the work presented (Sadler, 2010). Providers of the professional development need to be able to articulate what makes the participant’s work low or high quality. Since grades are not usually used to measure work put out in professional development, instructors need to be able to work with participants to improve the quality of their work by providing suggestions for further review of the material, strategy, or skill that is supposed to be demonstrated by the assignment. Instructors can also provide concrete reasons and examples as to how the changes they will need to make to create a higher quality product will help create better student learning opportunities in his or her classroom.
Finally, criteria for the assignment need to be understood by the participant in order to understand the feedback that is provided by the instructor (Sadler, 2010). Instructors of the professional development can remind students or show students the criteria for the assignment in their feedback. By highlighting the criteria either by referring back to the rubric or assignment description or by providing an example of an exemplar piece, the provider of the professional development can ensure the participant understands the rationale behind the feedback. These strategies can also help the participant to make appropriate modifications to their work.
When peer feedback is used in an online or blended learning environment, it encourages motivation by helping learners feel less isolated, builds trust, fosters and develops critical thinking, and helps reduce the workload of the instructor (van Ginkel, Gulikers, Biemans & Mulder, 2017; Espitia & Cruz Corzo, 2013). In K-12 online and blended teacher professional development courses, this form of feedback can be extremely beneficial and it allows participants to collaborate and help each other solve real classroom or lesson planning problems. According to Matherson and Windle (2017) teachers want to have their professional learning to be teacher-driven. One way to accommodate this is through the use of peer feedback activities during the professional development course.
Peer feedback is going to look different when using it in an online course as opposed to a blended course. In a K-12 online professional development course, this peer feedback is going to take place entirely online. This requires the instructor to have participants use written or recorded feedback activities. While participants may not feel confident in their ability to provide feedback to their classmates, following a specific procedure and making it a regular part of the course can alleviate this over time (Ertmer, Richardson, Belland, Camin, Connolly, Coulthard, & Mong, 2007). The use of digital tools can also help participants to create a greater sense of community. For instance, participants can use voice recording, video recording, and online meetings with each other, to help promote that sense of community. Other digital tools allow students to provide feedback anonymously as it randomly assigns peer feedback tasks to the students and sends that feedback back to the owner of the assignment. While anonymity may alleviate feelings of peer pressure in most online learning environments (Ertmer, et al, 2007), the fact that K-12 teacher professional development is not dependent on grades and is intended to promote community, anonymity should not be necessary (Matherson and Windle, 2017).
In a blended K-12 teacher professional development course, participants can provide peer feedback in the same ways discussed for online courses. But in blended courses participants may have the opportunity to provide peer feedback in a face to face setting. This strategy can especially be beneficial to help promote community in a school as many teachers, especially those teaching in large schools, do not often get to elicit feedback from many of their coworkers. Since teachers who are able to participate in a school based blended professional development teach the same students and have the same goals, their feedback can help to create better student learning opportunities school wide.
- El Saadawi, G. M., Azevedo, R., Castine, M., Payne, V., Medvedeva, O., Tseytlin, E., . . . Crowley, R. S. (2010). Factors affecting feeling-of-knowing in a medical intelligent tutoring system: The role of immediate feedback as a metacognitive scaffold. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 15(1), 9-30.
- Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., … Mong, C. (2007). Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study. Journal Computer-Mediated Communication, 12 (2), 412-433
- Matherson, L., & Windle, T. (2017). What Do Teachers Want from Their Professional Development? Four Emerging Themes. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 83(3), 28-32.
- Sadler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (5), 535-550.
- Siegesmund, A. (2017). Using self-assessment to develop metacognition and self-regulated learners. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 364(11), FEMS Microbiology Letters, 2017, Vol. 364(11).
- van Ginkel, S., Gulikers, J., Biemans, H., & Mulder, M. (2017). Fostering oral presentation performance: Does the quality of feedback differ when provided by the teacher, peers or peers guided by tutor? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(6), 953-966.