How to Give Effective Feedback to an Individual in a Large Class

How to Give Effective Feedback to an Individual in a Large Class
The Editorial Team November 22, 2012

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Teaching a large class of students can be a challenge for any instructor because it’s hard to provide individual attention to students who need it. When these students don’t get direct feedback from their teacher, they can feel discouraged or confused in the class.

There are numerous strategies that instructors can use to give quick feedback to students:

Use small assignments

Collecting a written assignment in class about a theory, idea or question related to the subject will allow teachers the opportunity to review student opinions and understanding of the material.

Cornell University suggests using one assignment for every four or five students to carefully review and provide individual feedback about the student’s progress and understanding. With every assignment, teachers can offer effective feedback to different students until the entire class has received at least one assignment with feedback on it.

By working on a rotation system that provides feedback to part of the class, teachers can effectively guide every individual in a large class. This system offers personalized feedback without overwhelming instructors with class materials and assignments.

Before collecting papers, Cornell University suggests explaining the feedback responses to avoid confusion among students. By explaining how the assessment is provided, instructors will prevent resentment in students who have not yet received feedback.

Write commentary on large projects

A large class can complicate the ability to provide effective feedback to an individual, but large assignments offer an opportunity to give further information to students. According to the Australian Association for Research in Education, written comments about an assignment help students determine where they did well, areas to improve and any further advice a teacher can provide.

By assigning projects and leaving a comment with the grade, teachers are able to connect to individuals in a large class and offer personalized advice about improvements, successes or expectations for the next projects. Effective feedback must incorporate some advice students can use in the future.

Make use of Internet tools

The use of the Internet in the classroom has made it possible to provide individualized feedback to questions and concerns during times out of class. A report by the Frontiers in Education Conference suggests that teachers set up an email system and online tools to provide feedback to student questions, concerns or comments that the entire class can view.

Since the Internet allows teachers to show the question and response to the entire class, it also prevents repeat questions from surfacing and offers feedback about expectations to all of the students.

When using Internet tools, teachers can use an anonymous system or offer the name of students who ask questions. Both options are effective tools to provide feedback to individuals, though anonymity might appeal to some students in a large class.

Quick and effective feedback

Other quick methods of giving student feedback include:

  • Returning student’s work with personalized comments or suggestions and an invitation to review the work during the instructor’s office hours.
  • Have students write a “minute paper” in response to a question about assigned reading for that day; respond quickly.
  • Ask questions during lectures that require a show of hands, and then respond individually to students who raised their hands.
  • Break the class into small groups to study the daily lesson; visit each group and respond to student questions and concerns.

Teachers need to provide effective feedback to individual students, even if the class is large and it is difficult to talk to every student on a regular basis. By working out a system that provides feedback to every member of the class, teachers are providing details about their expectations and ensuring all students are able to succeed.

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