What exactly do we mean by “constructive” feedback? Do we actually model the behaviours we ask students to demonstrate? Do we provide clear explanations of what we expect? Do we provide constructive feedback when the students’ feedback is weak, superficial, slapdash? Do we scaffold our learners so they can consciously build and flex their critical thinking and collaborative or team-work skills?
My reflections on constructive feedback were inspired by a random Twitter post from Howard Rheingold who shared a Diigo collection of links related to online facilitation. When I took a quick look a DS106 post on Constructive Comments caught my eye and, while scanning the article, I found an image tweet from @deedegs (Danielle Degelman 25 Nov 2014) Her visual list of the “3Cs and a Q” made me think about how I present, scaffold, model, promote constructive comments in my online facilitation.
As the Facilitating Learning Online workshop has evolved, I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating with several dedicated, passionate faciliators who strive to explain, demonstrate and facilitate the importance of constructive feedback or comments. When I began facilitating FLO, the workshop had built in weekly opportunities for peer-to-peer group feedback (i.e., each week a team of participants would facilitate a learning activities for the other members of the workshop). At the end of each weekly “mini-session” or “short learning activity”, the facilitators would encourage participants (to share constructive feedback on their experiences with the team of facilitators). We explored a number of different starter posts in a shared discussion forum to clarify what we were looking for in terms of “constructive”. The participant feedback, and any responses from the facilitation team members is open to the class.
During 2016, at the suggestion of FLO Facilitator, Beth Cougler Blom, we explored different ways of structuring the weekly learning activity team feedback. We asked the participants to share their feedback using these questions / prompts :
- _____________ (fill in the blank) really helped/supported my learning.
My learning might have been better if ______________ (fill in the blank).
- I like…. (what you liked about the facilitation and why)
I wish… (something that you wish the facilitators would have done/encouraged)
What if… (something that describes another alternative or option rather than what the facilitators did)
- What did the faciitators do that you really liked?
What did the facilitators do that were challenging for you?
What other kinds of facilitation strategies could the facilitators have tried, either as alternatives or add-ons?
And when I review our structures and approach in light of Danielle’s 4-step feedback, I think I might reframe it this way:
- Appreciate (identify something you valued or appreciated in the learning experience)
- React (What did you think of the experience? What did you learn? Be specific but not judgemental – use “I” sentences.
- Suggest (What might you suggest be done differently – why? How would this change improve the experience from your perspective?)
- Connect (Can you relate something that was said or read or viewed with other discussions or activities? Have you any relevant personal/professional experiences that may be useful to share?)
- Questions (What questions do you still have – about the topic or about the strategies or choices the facilitation team made)
During the upcoming BCcampus FLO workshop that I’m co-facilitating with Leonne Beebe, I hope to explore different ways to emphasize the importance and critical thinking that is involved in providing truly “constructive” feedback – both through the use of different feedback structures, and by asking good questions to stimulate our participants to embed this approach in their learning and practice.
So, when you think about how you encourage your learners to provide “constructive” comments or feedback – what are the essential elements you emphasize?