Meaningful Feedback in the Online Learning Environment


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Evaluation of meaningful feedback and comparison of the constructivist vs. the cognitive theory of online learning. Completed as an assignment for ELT7008-8-6 Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, AZ.

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  • Introductory slide to assignment #6
  • This presentation will cover the following topics.
  • Feedback is a form of assessment and provides information onhow they are performing according to the objectives of the course or activity (Nicol and Milligan, 2006).“Assessment is an important aspect of any teaching and learning system” (Benson, 2003 as cited by Vonderwell, Liang & Alderman, 2007, p. 310). Assessment, whether it is summative or formative, is am important part of the learning process, allowing the students to reflect on their learning, review what they understand, practice their skills and apply what they have learned (Vonderwell, et al, 2007).
  • While the cognitive theory stresses the importance of assessment as a separate activity from the learning, the constructivist believes assessment and learning should be integrated and not separate from each other (Mergel, 1998). The cognitive theory stresses a separation of processes and knowledge and that different learning outcomes require different cognitive processes and instructional strategies (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005).
  • Feedback is an important part of online discussions and learning. The instructor needs to structure the online discussions to compliment classroom lectures, create experiences that lead to determined outcomes, and use assessment that will improve student learning (Balaji & Chakrabarti, 2010). Assessment is necessary to determine if learning objectives have been met. Constant student-faculty interactions and immediate feedback in online environments are suggested to raise the students comfort levels with technology and encourages them to be more proactive (Balaji & Chakrabarti, 2010).” Assessment an is an important part of learning and can “provide instructors with immediate feedback to promote student learning and progress, and help students take ownership of their learning” (Vonderwell, et. al, 2007, p. 310).
  • Learner-centered suggestions come from Alley and Jansak, (2001) and Vonderwell, et. al, (2007). Instructor-led suggestions come from Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland (2005).By allowing students the flexibility in the form of assessment and presentation that represents the collaborative learning process students “increase their grasp of course concepts” (Palloff & Pratt, 2005, p. 53).By developing interdependence, students build collaboration and community and are “able to construct a collaborative view of the material being discussed that goes far beyond the ideas each held at the start” (Palloff & Pratt, 2007, p. 179).It is important to remember that although the instructor is the “guide on the side” in a learner-centered environment the instructor must “actively work to ensure online discussions engage students and lead to high quality educational outcomes” (Benfield, 2002, p. 1).
  • A potential problem in student participation in online discussions is the evaluation of the student’s contribution. Balaji and Chakrabarti (2010) site Pena-Shaff, Altman and Stephenson (2005) stating “students have rebelled when discussions are graded, resulting in a negative impact on their participation” (p. 2).A good instructor will sit back and allow participants to discuss as well step in and redirect the discussion as needed.
  • Nicol and Milligan (2006,p. 1) cite Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2004) identifying seven principals of good feedback that may support the learner.
  •  The instructor’s role in facilitating appropriate online interactions and discussions is important in supporting effective learning. The instructor is responsible for keeping the discussions on track, contributing additional information and insights to stimulate student learning and critical thinking, connecting the discussions and the course requirements, and maintaining the group norms. Instructor feedback should help create a positive student attitude toward learning as well as motivate the students to continue to explore and expand their learning, as well as encourage higher level thinking skills (Balaji & Chakrabarti, 2010). The instructor needs to “foster an environment in which participants feel ‘safe’ to voice their opinions and are respected for their views” (Benfield, 2002, p. 2).
  • Video from YouTube on best practices related to feedback by Winegar and Burns (2012) who completed a survey of instructors. Information from the video includes the following ideas:A quick thought: although the copy & paste method may save on time for the instructor, as a student you feel less validated and that the instructor only cares about cookie-cutter comments that do not promote engagement, self-reflection, and promote higher level thinking skills. This has happened to me on a number of occasions with instructors in the NCU program. I therefore attempt to add some form of personalization to comments that although maybe copy and pasted, they are not identical in thought due to the quoted material or summary of the student’s work.
  • “An essential role of the [instructor] is to overcome incoherence, provide feedback and scaffold student learning” (Vonderwell, et. al, 2007, p. 311). Instructors should provide feedback that will encourage student inquiry, build collaboration, and allow students to self-assess as well as provide peer feedback (Vonderwell, et. al, 2007). “ Effective student-centered learning can occur when students can assume responsibility” (Alley & Jansak, 2001, p. 8) for learning an unknown, while in a “sit and get” environment the students “cannot accelerate [their] learning processes through deliberate learning” (Alley & Jansak, 2001, p. 8).“A learning curriculum is the field of resources that learners make use of while participating in a community of practice, whereas a teaching curriculum limits learning by structuring the resources and controlling participants’ access to them” (Lee, et. al, 2006, p. 20). In a collaborative environment with peer feedback students describe an enhanced sends of self-worth, decreased sense of isolation and increased social support towards their learning (Lee, Carter-Wells, Glaeser, Ivers, & Street, 2006). Suggestions for instructor feedback in an online environment were mentioned on slide 10. Additional thoughts from Benfield (2002) are included here. “A course structure that clearly outlines course competencies, self assessments that index prior learning, and formative assessments that explicitly linked to target competencies motivate the learner to take responsibility for [their] learning” (Alley & Jansak, 2001, p. 8).
  • Guidelines for feedback as suggested in Palloff and Pratt (2005) should be provided to the students when creating collaborative work and collaborative assessments.It is also recommended by Palloff and Pratt (2005) that the instructor provide points in the rubric for meaningful and professional feedback which helps to provide guidelines on feedback for the students and promotes “more honest and constructive” feedback (p. 50).
  • “Students who see themselves as lacking membership may take isolationist stances common among disaffected learners” (Lee, et. al, 2006, p. 19) while students who “see their learning activities as being part of an accepted learning community, then the motivation to sustain and enhance that community may well cause students to value and contribute to their identity. As such, they will likely begin to identify with other learners, thus adding to the learning community in productive ways” (Lee, et. al, 2006, p. 19).
  • Learning in an online environment generates more collaborative knowledge “that is greater than the knowledge of any individual” (Lee, et. al, 2006, p. 20). When learning in an online environment that follows the constructivist theory, instructors and students feel challenged and as a result challenge each other to “critically evaluate the course content and to apply their new learning to solving problems of practice based on reasoned rationales” (Lee, et. al, 2006, p. 24). The goal of the constructivist is that the online classroom will rely on collaboration “to engage students in meaning-making and knowledge acquisition” and “building a strong online learning community” (Palloff and Pratt, 2005, p. 53). With all of this information, why then does a school like NCU remove the cohort, community, concept from the e-learning process? We learn it, but don’t practice it? Is it to challenge individuals who may have a strong belief in constructivist theory to remember “what came first – the chicken or the egg?” That without a cognitive theory others would not exist? Or perhaps to demonstrate that one type of learning is better than another? Either way, the current methods of instruction promoted by NCU in the doctoral program promotes a sense of isolation and lack of community. If more can be gained from collaboration, than that is what I’m seeking. Or, as a peer once told me, when I write my dissertation I will be the loneliest person on the earth – so perhaps NCU is trying to prepare me for even more isolation and a lack of of emotional support.
  • References used for this presentation.
  • Meaningful Feedback in the Online Learning Environment

    1. 1. Meaningful Feedbackin the Online Learning Environment By Jenna Linskens Northcentral University Prescott Valley, AZ ELT7008-8-6 S
    2. 2. Focus Concepts: Definition of Feedback Importance of Meaningful Feedback Benefits of Feedback Strategies for Meaningful Feedback Final Thoughts S
    3. 3. Definition ofFeedback“Feedback is informationabout how a student hasperformed in relation to somestandard or goal (knowledgeof results)” (Nicol and Milligan,2006, p. 1).
    4. 4. Compared FeedbackConstructivist Theory of Cognitive Theory of Feedback FeedbackS Constructivism stresses that S Cognitive theorists recognize “meaning is a function of how the that learning involves individual creates meaning from his or her experiences and “associations established actions” (Jonassen, 1991, as through contiguity and cited by Dabbagh&Bannan- repetition. They also Ritland, 2005, p.167). acknowledge the importance of reinforcement, and stress itsS Feedback “creates a point of role in providing feedback about connection between participants the correctness of the response and allows them to look at their ideas in another light” (Palloff & over its role as a motivator” Pratt, 2007, p. 179). (Good &Brophy, 1990, as cited by Mergel, 1998, p. 7).
    5. 5. Importance ofMeaningfulFeedback“Students learn faster andmore effectively when they areprovided with the feedback oftheir current performance andwhat might be needed in orderto improve”(Balaji&Chakrabarti, 2010, p.6).
    6. 6. Results of Feedback In a Learner-Centered In an Instructor-Led Environment EnvironmentS Encourages meaningful dialogue S Provides organized instructionS Increases collaboration S Enhances the learner‟s self control of information processingS Promotes peer and self-evaluation S Relies on learning strategies to facilitate understandingS Builds a sense of community S Focuses on performance masteryS Prompts reflection S Supports learning strategies thatS Allows students to summarize, promote articulation of understanding evaluate and construct broader and reflection on performance connections
    7. 7. Benefits of Feedback“The e-moderator has a critical roleto play in identifying key issuesremaining to be addressed, makingexplicit ideas or issues that havenewly emerged, [and] suggestingpaths for further development”(Benfield, 2002, p. 4).
    8. 8. Good Feedback PracticeS helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);S facilitates the development of reflection and self-assessment in learning;S delivers high quality information to students about their learning;S encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;S encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;S provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desiredperformance;S provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching.
    9. 9. Strategies forMeaningfulFeedback“External feedback shouldfocus on scaffolding studentstowards greater self-regulationin learning” (Nicol andMilligan, 2006, p. 1).
    10. 10. Best eLearning Practices 4 Prompt FeedbackS Video S Prompt feedback is attained through: online quizzes, layered responses, online surveys, emails, and chat forums, all completed in a timely manner. S How to improve feedback: escape distractions, be more specific, asking probing questions, using peer evaluations, recycling responses, and increasing 1:1 feedback, managing time better, tagging comments, using chat rooms for more immediate feedback, triaging questions, improving time management skills, and using the cut & paste features.
    11. 11. Instructor‟s Role in Feedback In the Constructivist In the Cognitive Theory Theory of Feedback of FeedbackS Facilitator, mentor or coach S LecturerS Feedback occurs through S The delivery of curriculum and online discussions with periodic instruction is the central focus and timely summaries, timely of the course. feedback to questions, and S Feedback is limited to written acknowledgment or successful completion and confirmation, and affirmation to understanding of specific goals work and participation through often times measured through praise and reassurance. standardized assessment
    12. 12. Guidelines for FeedbackS Plan ahead, don‟t make up the feedbackS Think first, get your thoughts straight before you typeS Make notes, figure out what you want to sayS Use short paragraphs, less is moreS Make it clear, the reader needs to be able to understand what you are sayingS Don‟t over quote, and then say “I agree”, summarize the message and add your commentS Don‟t just agree (or disagree) with the writer, tell why you feel a certain way and support it with factsS Read through before clicking submit, check for spelling & grammatical errors and that the message is appropriate without being demeaning or insultingS Provide feedback in a timely manner, don‟t wait until the end, which can result in feeling rushed and providing less meaningful feedback
    13. 13. FinalThoughts“Detailed instructions providedfor completing the activities,regular feedback from theinstructor and increasedcommunication amongstudents encourages greaterparticipation” in an onlineenvironment(Balaji&Chakrabarti, 2010, p.16).
    14. 14. The Empowered Learner: A Constructivist ViewS The more we engage students in self-evaluation, the more meaningful the course.S The more we engage students in collaborative activities and assessments, the longer the learning community will lastS The more meaningful the course, the more likely to build lifelong learnersS “Learning online is about inclusion, caring, and inquiry. It is a co-constructed learning environment” (Palloff & Pratt, 2005, p. 53).
    15. 15. ReferencesAlley, L.R. &Jansak, K.E. (2001, Winter). The ten keys to quality assurance and assessment in online learning. Journalof Interactive Instruction Development, (13)3, 3-18.Balaji, M.S. &Chakrabarti, D. (2010, Spring). Student interactions in online discussion forum: Empirical research from„media richness theory‟ perspective. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(1), 1-22.Benfield, G. (2002, June 27). Designing and managing effective online discussions. Oxford Centre for Staff andLearning Development Learning and Teaching Briefing Papers Series. Retrieved from, N. &Bannan-Ritland, B. (2005). Online learning: Concepts, strategies, andapplication. Columbus, OH: Pearson. *Lee, J., Carter-Wells, J., Glaeser, B., Ivers, K., & Street, C. (2006). Facilitatingthe development of a learning community in an online graduate program. Quarterly Review of Distance Education. (7)1pp. 13-33. Retrieved from Proquest.Nicol, D.J. & Milligan, C. (2006). Rethinking technology-supported assessment in relation to the seven principals ofgood feedback practice. Innovative Assessment in Higher Education. London: Taylor and Francis Group Ltd.Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Palloff, R.M. & Pratt, K. (Ed.) (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom.San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Vonderwell, S., Liang, X., & Alderman, K. (2007, Spring). Asynchronous discussions and assessment in online learning.Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(3), 309-328. Retrieved from ProQuest.Winegar, M. & Burns, E. (2012). Best eLearning Practices 4 Prompt Feedback [Video]. Retrieved from YouTube