K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 25/Distance Learning and K-12 Feedback -- John Rogener

Feedback is an integral part of any group situation. The K-12 environment is no different. In the decades preceding the internet revolution, teacher feedback to and with the student was relegated to face to face time or notes scribbled on tests and/or papers.

Overview edit

With the internet and electronic copies of school materials making headway into school culture, teachers and other faculty not only can utilize several tools to provide feedback targeted towards improving the students’ work but the ability to offer an atmosphere where students can proactively assess and evaluate their progress. It is to be hoped that with the arrival of new tools, meaningful feedback can become more relevant, helpful and useful in the lives of students.

Feedback edit

What is Feedback edit

Before we go any farther with the enhanced tools used for feedback, we must take a look at what feedback means to the instructor and the student as a whole. In the school setting, feedback is also considered reinforcement [1]. Here are some stereotypical forms of feedback teachers and instructors can provide to individuals:

Confirmation The answer you provided was correct..
Corrective The answer you provided was incorrect. The correct choice was Michigan.
Explanatory The answer was incorrect because Carter was from Georgia; only Jefferson called Virginia home.
Diagnostic Your answer was incorrect. Your choice of Carter suggests some extra instruction on the home states of past presidents might be helpful.
Elaborative Your answer, Jefferson, was correct. The University of Virginia, a campus rich with Jeffersonian architecture and writings, is sometimes referred to as Thomas Jefferson’s school.

(Adapted from Flemming and Levie & Wikipedia.[2][3])

However, using the term reinforcement limits the effectiveness of the overall feedback process. The several criticisms of reinforcement focus on the black and white nature of promoting positive behaviors while decreasing the negative ones [4]. Additionally, reinforcement aims to directly correct or promote an issue rather than feedback’s “effect after the fact” (Wikipedia, criticisms reinforces) Feedback, on the other hand, strives to improve the current situation.

According to the Academic Leadership Journal, effective feedback consists of three main parts[5]. They include:

  • Overview of an attempt at a desired goal
  • Objective evidence about present position
  • Linkage on how to close the gap between item 1 and 2

Recently, the three step model above has been expanded and modernized to include the role of student interaction in hopes of increasing the validity and usefulness of classroom feedback. Principles of good feedback include[6]:

  • Facilitates reflection
  • Increases dialogue
  • Clarifies good performance
  • Provides sufficient opportunities to improve
  • Delivers relevant information pertaining to learning
  • Encourages positive self-esteem
  • Allows the teacher to reflect and improve their plans

The Application of Feedback edit

It is up to the practitioner to bridge the gap between the theoretical and practical applications of feedback while within the digital classroom. According to Susan Brookhart [7], the process of effective feedback is divided into two separate, but necessary spheres of influence. The first necessary sphere is the Planning phase where the purpose of the feedback is determined [8]. Facilitating planned feedback is necessary for the success of not only the student’s improvement, but also how the feedback is shaped. Planned feedback ultimately has structure and a definite purpose behind it, along with the historical context to directly pertain to the individual student. The second sphere if the application of feedback is determining the Delivery Method. Brookhart defines the two forms of delivery possible within a distance learning atmosphere that include written and verbal forms of feedback. One common theme between administering both the written and verbal forms of distance feedback is reflecting upon what is being stated. Critical reflection while in the feedback process is a key component to the success or failure of the session. Whether the feedback is written or spoken, it is necessary to understand where the student’s feelings come into play. It must be mentioned that the process of critical reflection is easier while completing written feedback as opposed to verbal communication. However, using the first sphere of planning the feedback session, the negative attributes should be minimized due to proper planning, resourcing and contextual evidence.

Feedback Today edit

As we look closer into the trends for developmental feedback today, we can see there are several trends. Foremost, unlike decades in the past, teachers and other school officials have started to put more of the responsibility on the students to not only receive feedback, but also provide it to fellow students. There are several benefits for granting students the opportunity to actively participate within the feedback cycle. By incorporating the student into the feedback process and cycle, many of York’s feedback principles (listed above) will automatically come to fruition. The principles include increased student reflection, increased clarification and most importantly, opportunities to improve future performance (cite).

Looking closer into how feedback evolved today, the methods behind distributing, facilitating and monitoring feedback have changed dramatically from the time of paper based and face to face feedback. In this article we will take a closer look at all the items listed, but the changes are not limited to YouTube and video pastings, bulletin boards, email and live video feeds. Before the internet, distance learning feedback was limited to mailing, faxing or telephone sessions.

Lastly, the role of feedback today has undergone a significant improvement in terms of knowledge dissemination over the years. I am sure everyone can remember in the past where feedback was limited by the source it was delivered upon and also the thought process behind the delivery. Feedback within the K-12 environment has undergone a revolution with the information available and the studies completed. With endless amounts of studies easily accessible through a variety of resources like the internet, teachers can increase the effectiveness of their feedback to further improve students’ performance as well as their self-esteem.

Tools to use edit

The list below contains only a partial list of distance learning related feedback platforms. As the internet and communications begin to evolve, so to will the tools used to provide feedback. The list below should be used as a guide designed to foster ideas regarding they types of feedback that can be compiled.

Youtube edit

YouTube has become an internet phenomenon with advancing and promoting the role of easily accessible videos lasting under 10 minutes. The issue with distance learning and meaningful feedback stems from the fact of little physical interactions between the student and the teacher. YouTube, and the videos on it, allow for an increased sense of interpersonal relationships between individuals. I personally think having interpersonal communication is critical for any feedback. With the videos, students and teachers will be able to assess body language, inflection of voice and of course the audio portion of the feedback itself.

One of the ways in which YouTube can be used in regard to effective feedback is to post the actual session to an individual student, or a group. The students would then be able, at their own time, to come back and view the video. Incidentally, YouTube offers users the ability to limit the users who see the videos, assuring privacy and confidentiality when dealing with sensitive feedback sessions. The user interface for the poster, or virtual feedback administer, on YouTube allows for the easy management of videos and feedback sessions for easy organization.

Video Conferencing edit

Webex, LiveMeeting and other video capable conferencing solutions provide the ability for two or more individuals, who would not be able to meet in person, to see and hear each other in a live environment. As service provider bandwidth increases and prices continue to fall, more and more people will come into contact with this type of technology to provide feedback. Video conferencing allows for the same communication to occur that would happen in real life, obviously making this the most useful tool to administer feedback and connecting with a student virtually. The effectiveness of the video conferencing is limited by a couple of key items. The first is the cost of buying the necessary video cameras and subscriptions to video conferencing solutions. The second is the relative speed of the internet. Without a fast internet connection, the granularity and choppiness of the video will cause frustration and missed words on both end. Lastly, as with any distance learning situation, teachers and students must be cognizant of the time differences. Unlike the other forms of communication used in the feedback process, video conference’s live component needs both users to be present for it to be effective and worth while.

Bulletin Boards edit

Bulletin boards allow for a different mode of communication than videos or audio files in a distance learning situation. Unlike other modes of virtual communication, bulletin boards facilitate a myriad of different options for feedback. Unlike email or videos, where feedback can get lost in the shuffle, bulletin boards archive feedback to ensure the student or students recollection of it and grant the ability to apply it to future situations. Bulletin boards also allow for easy communication between both the teacher and the student to account for any questions or inconsistencies that may arise from the feedback received. Having the discourse between the student and the teacher will ensure the feedback has been assimilated and reflected upon by the student, which has been identified as a necessary component in distance learning feedback.

Email edit

Email has been around for quite a while and it has become apparent that many people have delivered some sort of feedback at some time or another over this medium. This does not necessarily mean it has been used correctly. Email brings with it the innate ability for two people to easily and quickly connect by way of text. Just as with the bulletin board option, email contains only text, and therefor does not contain the body language or voice inflection which is necessary with any human interaction. With that said, however, email provides two people over great distances the ability to connect and improve upon their skills through the sharing and receiving virtual feedback.

Feedback Today edit

Pros edit

Distance Learning, and the feedback that is associated with it, can be very tricky to master. As technology improves and as individuals become more accustomed to giving and receiving feedback, the process will become easier and easier. Using different technologies and understanding how to administer feedback in a virtual world will better prepare teachers and students to interact in ways that were previously never thought possible. Distance learning, and the feedback associated with it, has allowed classes to be taught over great distances and through mediums that may or may not require the actual instructor’s presence. Some of the pro’s for the feedback sessions are the accountability the distance learning software[9] allows when tracking and keeping track of a student’s progress by constructive feedback. Additionally, technology and distance learning feedback allows for students to take the reigns of their progress, the feedback sessions and the evaluating sessions.

Cons edit

As with any distance learning program, the possible side effects and negative reactions towards feedback have to surround two separate issues. The first being the fact that the direct human interaction is negated by the technologies, distances and time zone issues. Furthermore, the technology puts increased responsibility on the students who may or may not be receptive towards this type of learning. Without the discipline to fully interact, the benefits of distance learning fall by the way side and confusion and frustration can set in. With a detailed training and feedback plan, and with close teacher supervision, both negative side effects can be avoided.

Conclusion edit

Distance learning has asserted itself among the tools used to teach students. It must be noted that as with any type of learning, feedback is necessary to improve the student and their performance while in the distance learning theater. Just as with traditional class settings, feedback for distance learning classes can be delivered in both written and verbal contexts. It is up to the instructor to take the two forms of feedback, written and verbal, and apply them to existing technology platforms within the digital world. The platforms include YouTube, video conferencing, bulletin boards and finally email. With proper planning, effective feedback can be as useful and successful as traditional classroom settings.

References edit

  1. Michael, J. (1975, 2005). Positive and negative reinforcement, a distinction that is no longer necessary; or a better way to talk about bad things. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 24, 207-222.
  2. Fleming, M., & Levie, W.H. (1993). Instructional message design: principles from the behavioral and cognitive sciences (Second Edition ed.). Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology Publications. ISBN 0877782539. {{cite book}}: |edition= has extra text (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Wikipedia: Feedback in Education
  4. Wikipedia: Criticisms of Reinforcement
  5. Academic Leadership Journal: Providing Students with Effective Feedback
  6. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id353_senlef_guide.pdf Juwah C, Macfarlane-Dick D, Matthew B, Nicol D: Enhancing Student Learning through Effective Formative Feedback
  7. Brookhart, Susan. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students (Second Edition ed.). Alexandria, Va. :: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ISBN 1416607366. {{cite book}}: |edition= has extra text (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. Brookhart, S: An ASCD Study Guide for How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students
  9. Smith, Sharon. "K-12 Distance Learning". Lanschool.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)