Faculty Matter #27: Helping students take the reins – Providing “feedforward” 

In this Teaching Tip, I share a construct articulated by Dr. Manju Banerjee, an internationally-recognized expert in higher education teaching and learning: the notion of “feedforward.”  Her point is fairly straightforward:  In addition to providing feedback – about the strengths and problems with students’ work as we return it to them once we have graded it, we should also consider ways to help students figure out how to adjust their studying as they go forward with future assignments. What should they do, do more, do differently, or not do, as they manage their time, as they study, as they assess their level of mastery of course material, as they review for tests, as they write and so on?

You might apply this concept in the written comments you provide to students, or in conversation during office hours when students come in to check on their standing in your course.

As you plan how you might provide this guidance for your students, consider two suggestions:

  • Be concrete: If a student’s writing was unclear, for example, help them identify easy-to-implement strategies to check for clarity next time: “There were a lot of good ideas in your answer, but I also found I lost the thread a few times.  Next time, you might want to try reading what you wrote out loud to yourself, and see if it sounds clear and complete to you.  That should help you check to see if you are saying what you intended to say.” Simple, easy to do, no special materials or technology required.
  • Let them “own” the idea:  Once you offer your advice, have them think about how they could do what you suggest. “Yeah – I could print my answer out and read it, and I could underline the places where I think it doesn’t make sense, or where I think I should add something or change the wording.”

At your leisure, we invite you to skim through previous Faculty Matter Teaching Tips.  Please add your own strategies using the comment link on the Provost’s Academic Spotlight blog under the category “Faculty.

Download a PDF version of this tip: FMTT27