Once you have a general plan put together, you will need to find the right tools and strategies to turn your plan into reality.
Consider your communication goals, student social and emotional needs, and academic learning objectives first. Then, find the tools and strategies that will best meet these outcomes. When making your selections, also consider these guiding questions:
Questions to ask about the tool:
- Will the tools work on the devices available to your students?
- Are the tools and strategies age-appropriate?
- Are the tools and processes simple enough that they do not become barriers?
Questions to ask about strategy effectiveness:
- Is the data or outcome meaningful enough to justify the time invested in the activity?
- Is the activity an important and authentic part of the learning process?
- Will the activity and resulting feedback inform and improve learning?
- Are strategies in place to inform academic as well as social and emotional needs?
Questions to ask about equity:
- Do students have voice and choice in how they show their learning?
- Do students have options to receive information and communicate in a variety of media formats (text, audio, video, images, sketches, etc.)?
- Are options available for students with accessibility needs?
If the answer is “yes” to these questions, there is a good chance you have found something that will be effective for you, your students, and their parents/guardians. Of course, formative assessment and feedback is an ongoing process, not a single event. You will need to develop a comprehensive monitoring and feedback system that you can use throughout your lessons and units. Explore the strategies and tools listed below to start building your toolkit.
If you have access to a learning management system (LMS), this is a good place to start. Whenever possible, take advantage of the powerful features that are included in the platform available to you. These tools are likely well developed, easy to use, and integrated directly into the learning environment.
- How it works: A teacher posts an assignment (sometimes with a template to complete). The student completes the work and submits it digitally as a document, link, text, video, audio recording, image, etc. In some cases, the LMS will automatically make a copy of a template for each student to complete. This streamlines the process and attaches the digital work to each student account automatically for easy tracking.
- Feedback tip: The teacher grades the assignment. If available, rubrics can allow you to give more specific feedback than just a numerical or letter grade. Attaching text, audio, or video comments can be particularly impactful and provide more personalized feedback.
- Feedback privacy: Assignment feedback is typically private between the teacher and student. An exception might be comments on group work. Parents/guardians may also have access.
- How it works: A teacher will post a prompt, and students respond. Typically, students are then allowed (or encouraged) to reply to others’ posts. Some discussion boards allow the teacher to determine if students can see other posts before submitting their own posts or if they need to submit their idea before seeing the posts of others.
- Feedback tip: Feedback can be integrated by the teacher directly into the discussion as a way to inform the conversation or redirect behavior. It can also be posted at the conclusion of the activity.
- Feedback privacy: Responses in the discussion will be public. Grades and comments afterward are private. Parent/guardian access depends on the LMS.
Tests and Quizzes
- How it works: A teacher creates and publishes an online test for students to complete and submit when finished. Due to limited testing security in a distance learning setting, most tests and quizzes serve as progress checks rather than high-stakes summative assessments. Objective question types (like multiple-choice and matching) are usually auto-scored, while subjective questions (like essays) must be scored by the teacher.
- Feedback tip: One effective strategy is to offer students the means for immediate feedback through self-scored tests. This allows them to immediately know how they are doing, and it gives the teacher a quick list of scores to review as a progress check. Another option is to allow multiple opportunities to take an assessment, encouraging students to retake it until they score at a specified level (even up to 100%). This helps encourage mastery before moving on.
- Feedback privacy: Scores are usually seen only by the teacher and individual student. Parent/guardian access depends on the LMS and setting configurations within the program.
In an asynchronous, self-paced learning environment, you are probably not going to be communicating with your students in real time. Therefore, be purposeful in designing a system that is rich with frequent and timely feedback. Also, be sure to provide multiple types of feedback to better meet the diverse communication needs of your students. As you make your choices, consider which types of feedback will be the most effective and efficient.
Offering text feedback is very common and works well with many types of student submissions. Some options include marking up a text and providing inline comments, tagging sections of a document and posting comments in the margin, color-coding parts of students’ work based on a key, or providing overall comments at the end. Available options will vary depending upon the tool you are using.
- Color-coded highlighting (Highlight Tool – Google Docs Add-on)
- Targeted comments in the margin
- Overall comments at the beginning or end of the assignment
- Rubric pasted into the assignment
- Highlight Tool (Google Docs Add-on)
- Integrated highlighters (Microsoft and Google products, etc.)
- PDF markup tools (Chrome extensions and web tools: Kami or DocHub)
Our students live in a video-rich world, and video can be a very powerful way to communicate and connect with them. Oftentimes, providing video feedback is faster than typing text comments, and it allows you to personalize your message. The added benefit of a student seeing you and hearing your voice is powerful and adds a social and emotional element to the feedback. Recording your screen (screencasting) allows you to effectively “show and tell” your message at the same time. If your LMS has integrated video options, these can be quick and easy to use. Otherwise, there are many free options available online.
- Attach your video directly to an assignment.
- Email a link of your recording to the student.
- Participate in discussions using video recordings rather than text comments.
- Conduct a scheduled live video meeting.
- Record a screencast, providing detailed feedback while walking through student work.
- Record a video reply to a student video submission with Flip (Tips).
- Your LMS
- Flip (Tips)
There are many similarities between audio and video feedback, and many recording tools provide both audio and video options. The biggest difference is that with audio, you cannot “show” as you tell. Still, sometimes audio alone is sufficient, and it may be faster to produce than video. Some tools allow you to post an audio comment to a specific part of a document that you highlight (like a text comment tool) or embed a link to your recording at the location being discussed (like inserted audio in a digital slideshow). Some tools will store the recordings in their site (like your LMS), and some will require you to upload them to cloud storage before you can share a link.
- Record audio using integrated LMS tools.
- Record audio, upload to cloud storage, and share a link to it.
- Use an extension to offer comments in the margin.
- Create a class podcast.
- Your LMS
- Cloud storage systems (Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, etc.)
- Talk and Comment (Chrome Extension)
- Online Voice Recorder (Simple Website)
- Audio production tools (Soundtrap, Audacity, RedcoolMedia)
While text, video, and audio can all be used with rubrics, it’s worth calling this out separately. A simple numeric or letter grade provides only vague feedback and may often feel more evaluative than constructive. This can lead to misunderstandings, especially in a remote learning environment. Providing more granular feedback through a rubric will give students more meaningful feedback that can help better inform their path forward.
- Create meaningful feedback categories.
- Create multilevel or single-point rubrics.
- Use rubric tools that are integrated into your LMS.
- Paste a rubric into a submitted document.
- Link to a rubric document.
- Add text, video, and/or audio feedback for more detail.
- Your LMS
- Online rubric generators (RubiStar)
- Chrome Extension (Goobric)
- Your word processor
There are an increasing number of online tools that offer instant feedback. Some are fully developed learning platforms, while others are tools that provide the delivery system but require students and teachers to add the content. Oftentimes, these will offer a library of publicly created activities that can be used as posted or modified. These activities can be both engaging and fun for the learner, and they provide immediate feedback.
Pre-Made Learning Tools
Companies often provide free activities as entry points into paid subscriptions, and many teachers find that the free material is worth exploring. There are far too many to list, but here are a few popular examples. You’ll want to search the web for more that meet your needs.
- Complete lessons
- Stand-alone activities
- PhET Interactive Simulations (science and math)
- Chrome Extensions
Create Your Own Options
There are many websites that provide you tools for presenting your own content in interactive ways. While these require more time to create, they also offer you the ability to customize the content to better match your needs. These can usually be linked or embedded directly into a website or LMS.
- GooseChase (scavenger hunt)
- Wisc-Online (game-maker)
By integrating checkpoints into your lessons, you can be more informed about student progress through your content, while also providing students with formative feedback along the way. This not only makes the content more engaging, but it also helps to inform the learning process.
Video Feedback Tools
Posting video is a great way to remotely teach a concept, but it can be hard to know if students are actually watching them or if viewers are tuning out partway through. Studies have shown that videos over five or six minutes in length seldom get watched in their entirety. In fact, a series of one- or two-minute videos are often better than one longer one. One powerful strategy to engage learners in video content is to use tools that allow you to insert questions throughout the video-watching experience. Some tools like Edpuzzle and PlayPosit offer teacher analytics, which show you how much of a video each student has viewed as well as how they scored on embedded quiz questions.
- Embed questions directly into a longer video.
- Require a short quiz after each shorter video.
- Insert a video into a discussion post and have students respond/reflect.
- Have students take notes as they view and share the notes with you.
Website Feedback Tools
As with video, adding checkpoints into a reading experience can keep students engaged and accountable.
- Create an activity that corresponds with the reading.
- Embed questions directly into a website.
- Have students take notes and submit them to you.
- Have students teach-back the information they have reviewed.
- Post a link to the website in a discussion post and have students respond to a thoughtful prompt.
- Have students annotate a website and share the annotation with you.
- Your LMS
- Tools to embed questions into a website (InsertLearning)
- Chrome Extensions to mark up a website (Hypothesis, Sticky Notes, Page Marker, Scrible Toolbar)
Your LMS will allow you to post content and activities in sequential order, and you can insert checkpoints along the way.
- Post a short quiz, discussion, or assignment after each learning activity.
- Embed the video or web content directly into an activity.
- Embed a video into a multiple-choice quiz question.
- Use completion rules that require certain activities or actions in order to move on to the next posted item (quiz score, assignment submission, etc.).
- Require a teacher check-in before allowing a student to move on, especially when students are creating projects.
- Your LMS
While it’s important to check in on your students’ academic progress, it is equally important to check in on their emotional well-being. This can take many different forms and can be individualized or collected from the class as a whole depending on the data you desire.
While students are probably progressing through your content at their own pace, you can still insert feedback surveys at key points in the learning process or on certain days of the week as check-ins. These can be used as a way to see how your students are feeling about their learning or to find out if they need any additional support.
- Post a survey every Friday or Monday.
- Post a survey after each chapter or unit.
This will not give you individualized information, but it can give you an idea of how the class is doing as a whole. These can also be used as a starting point for a discussion.
- Post a survey question, and then post the resulting word cloud.
- Ask students what inferences they can draw from the word cloud results.
- Post a “How are you feeling?” question.
- Have students rate themselves on a scale and see which answers show up as the most common.
Polling tools can work much like a word cloud activity, but data may be reported in other ways. Polls often give you the option of sharing results publicly in real time or collecting the data privately for you to review or share as desired later.
- Post a “How are you feeling?” question.
- Have students rate their level of understanding on a five-point scale and see which answers show up as the most common.
- Ask students to identify specific areas of confusion.
The tools and strategies listed above are very efficient and can gather feedback from your students quickly and efficiently. However, those approaches may not be personal enough for all of your students. You may want to consider supplementing these more generic check-ins by reaching out personally to each of your students on a rotating basis. This personalized communication can show how much you care about each student as an individual, and it may allow you to get deeper insights into a student’s current status than you might through the other channels.
- Phone call
- Messaging tools
- Written letter
- School email system
- Internet calling services (Google Meet, etc.)
- US mail