Have you ever given feedback that looked a little something like this? “Good job” or “This is a bit vague”? Most educators have. Giving academic feedback might be one of the most important parts of the learning cycle that we often get wrong. A story I will share below, made me realize that online learning is a time we really need to hone this skill. Students need feedback to help them grow and to better understand themselves as learners and as we develop our own mastery of teaching, we need to truly understand how to craft this helpful feedback.
Giving good feedback can be a bit tricky and requires both a learning target as well as success criteria in order to give the type of feedback that makes sense to students.
Several features in Microsoft Teams let us provide quality feedback in different ways.
“Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning (see Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Hattie, 2008; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001),” wrote Grant Wiggins in an article, Seven Keys to Effective Feedback, for Educational Leadership.
Wiggins wrote that feedback needs to be goal-referenced, tangible and transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing and consistent. We are going to apply these to the elements within Microsoft Teams.
Feedback in a Microsoft Teams post
First, let’s look at how we can use the Post Feature to provide effective and growth-based feedback. Add a post into a channel so that everyone in that channel can see it. Posts can include text, images, attachments, videos, polls, and more.
Through posts, we can:
- Clarify the learning goals and offer scaffolding.
- Add mentor texts or examples.
- Post good examples and ideas as they come in.
- Repost any answers to questions that have been asked privately that other students might be struggling with as well.
- Post a screencast video to explaining something students might be struggling with.
- Offer quick tips or tutorials when needed.
- Send students to other places (like Tabs). They can, for instance, do quick checks for understanding using apps like Flipgrid. We can use the data from those checks to post helpful resources to help students improve. Plus, we can offer targeted whole-class feedback based on that data that helps students who are still grappling with ideas.
Remember, always start this feedback by being transparent about how this helps the students toward the learning goal.
Feedback in a Microsoft Teams private chat
Here, teachers can provide smaller amounts of feedback to individual students that is more individualized and targeted. If private chats are enabled for you, this is a place to offer some tangible recommendations for that individual student.
For the feedback to be meaningful, provide actionable ideas and easily understandable ways to improve in this chat. Help the child feel supported and successful as they progress. Good feedback also includes what the child is doing right.
The private chat can also help teachers with:
- Relationship-building (SEL).
- Keeping students on-task with quick ongoing check-ins.
- Giving students any needed extra attention with actionable goals.
- An easy way to provide timely feedback.
Note: Timely is more important than immediate. Make sure to allow students the time to struggle and step in with the feedback when it’s going to help them grow – not to stop them from struggling. They need to struggle.
To help make this point, Grant Wiggins suggests, “The more feedback I can receive in real time, the better my ultimate performance will be. This is how all highly successful computer games work. If you play Angry Birds, Halo, Guitar Hero, or Tetris, you know that the key to substantial improvement is that the feedback is both timely and ongoing. When you fail, you can immediately start over—sometimes even right where you left off—to get another opportunity to receive and learn from the feedback.”
Feedback in programs like Word and PowerPoint
Within individual Microsoft programs, like Word, PowerPoint and OneNote, students and teachers can leave comments. If a post is like talking in front of the room, and if private comments are like a 1-to-1 conversation, comments in individual programs are like marking up student work. Like writing comments in the margins, suggesting revisions, writing a smiley face on the parts you love.
This kind of feedback should:
- Offer specific changes to individual sentences, slides, cells, etc. in a file based on the learning goal.
- Be timely. It should happen throughout the draft, not at the end.
- Carry on ongoing conversations with nested replies that are action and goal oriented.
- Reply to only one person in the shared program by using the mention or @ feature.
Rubrics and general feedback in a Microsoft Teams assignment
When we use a rubric, we measure student work against certain benchmarks we set before we start. Does it meet our expectations? How can it be improved? This is the focus of rubric feedback (comments and grades on specific parts of the rubric) and general feedback (comments we make on the assignment as a whole).
Many times, we use rubric feedback just to grade. It’s a summative assessment, when the project is finished. There are problems with this, though. It’s like doing an autopsy on a dead body. The activity or project is over, so there’s no opportunity to improve the work. Think of feedback, instead, as trying to make student work healthy before it’s over.
Feedback needs to be followed by an opportunity to do it over. Without that opportunity to grow, it’s not really feedback. It’s just a comment.
Instead, let’s use rubric and assignment feedback to give formative feedback. Provide some comments and suggestions. Return it to the student BEFORE the assignment is complete. Let students make improvements and then turn it back in. Worried your students won’t turn work in early? Make it part of the requirements of the assignment — points for turning in the first time, points for revisions.
Feedback in a Microsoft Teams private student channel:
This is a more focused approach to help one or two students who might need more targeted help. If you notice an individual student is struggling, you can open a temporary channel with just you and that student. Offer more resources and specific guidance that might help the student progress toward the learning goal.
Here teachers can help individual students by providing:
- Targeted one-on-one feedback.
- Actionable examples.
- Quick and timely check ins.
- Links to explainer videos, to a tab with a list of Stream videos to help them in areas of need, to individualized teacher-created videos just for their needs.
- Consistent and timely feedback.
- Smaller more concrete goals for these students.
Make a Microsoft Teams feedback strategy
When you know where you can leave feedback — and the benefits of each feedback option — you can strategize how to best provide feedback for your students. Try one option to see what you like about it. Add another after some time. Once you’ve tried several, you can see what works best for you and your students. Then, once you have that understanding, you’ll be able to use Microsoft Teams to provide useful feedback for as long as you teach with it!