How do you get students to read your feedback? It's a question that I have asked hundreds of times, and it's a question that faculty new and old alike consistently ask me. We know how important it is to receive feedback, read it, and apply it if we want to improve as scholars. We also know how important it is to give feedback to students, to have them read it, and then ask them to apply it. We talk about how important feedback is to them not only as students, but as individuals, scholars, and soon-to-be professionals. Students know--because we tell them--how important the feedback process is to their education. So, why, oh, why, don't they read it?
There are many answers to this question, but I would rather answer it by asking another: why do we still insist on asking students to read our feedback if we know they don't? Why do we continue this sisyphean task where tedious hours are spent providing feedback that never gets read? I have found in my teaching career that the answer to these kinds of questions can usually be found in me changing something in my pedagogy rather than asking students to change something in their learning.
Rather than laboring for hours marking up a draft, I started to create feedback videos where I can share my feedback on an assignment in a medium that is more useful to my students. Students are more willing to watch a short, three or four minute video about their work than they are to thumb through my written comments. Students can also hear and see me in the videos, which helps me to personalize the feedback. They can see that I'm not yelling at them. I'm not mad or disappointed. I'm not all the things that they read into when they see a red mark on a paper. More importantly, I can genuinely convene how proud I am, how much progress they're making, and how I want to support them.
Moreover, by using video, I am actually able to get more in-depth with my comments than I ever would by writing them. I can treat each video like the student has made a quick stop into my office. They feel more like the start of dialogue about learning than "do this, not that" checklist. This is one of the reasons I have grown to love the class feedback video.
Giving feedback to the entire class has a number of benefits. It helps the students not to feel "singled out" by the feedback and realize that they share their struggles with their peers. This builds a "we're all in this together" atmosphere. It also gives the professor an opportunity to share (and remind!) students about resources and support for improving.
Check out this feedback video that I created for one of my film classes:
I created this feedback video using Microsoft Powerpoint for the visual elements and Screencast-o-matic as the video software. I chose to do a combination of screencast and talking head techniques because I wanted students to a) have an opportunity to take notes about the feedback and b) resources as well as personalize the feedback by having them see me give it.
How do you get students to read your feedback? You don't. How do you get students to engage with your feedback? You change the way you provide it.