It is the beginning of the semester and faculty and students are excited about their classes. There is something about meeting your new students, a feeling you are transforming the lives of citizens. So, if the students are excited, why then, soon after the semester starts, do they start missing deadlines, asking for extensions, and, telling you that they are confused, which is why they did not follow the instructions provided on the syllabus? Although this problem applies to many students, this article focuses on international students, because they are becoming more prevalent in American university classrooms and pedagogical advice rarely takes into account their particular circumstances.
The following conceptions of feedback were offered by a group of students studying to become physical therapists. They were asked to recall a situation during their time in higher education when they felt they’d experienced feedback. Then they were asked a series of questions about the experience and about feedback more generally: “What is feedback? How would you describe it? How do you go about getting it? How do you use it?” (p. 924) The goal of the study was to investigate students’ conceptions of feedback. Student conceptions involve underlying personal beliefs, views, and ideas, unlike student perceptions, which explore how the feedback is understood. Analysis of transcripts from the interviews reveal four conceptions of feedback held by this student group.
Students can disrupt a class—most of us have experienced that firsthand—but so can teachers. Teacher misbehaviors can also be disruptive. They can get in the way of learning. Sometimes these teacher behaviors are unintentional. Sometimes they are misunderstood by students. Sometimes teachers are tired and less focused than they should be. Whatever the cause, confronting actions that get in the way of learning is beneficial.
Like a lot of terms in higher education, low-stakes grading doesn’t always refer to the same thing. In some cases it means small assignments that don’t count for much but occur regularly, as quizzes are often used. Low-stakes grading can also mean there’s a de-emphasis on correct answers with credit being awarded for completed answers. Upon first consideration, many faculty might wonder why a teacher would opt for the second approach. If the credit is based on completion, how likely are students to expend anything more than minimal effort?
Some professions offer a greater sense of closure than teaching. Take plumbing, for example. Plumbing problems are hard to miss and not always easy to fix, but once the PVC has been replaced, the flux applied, and the water is back on, the plumber knows immediately if the problem has been fixed.
The process of making instructional changes has not been studied much at all—perhaps because it seems like a simple process. We discover a new idea, are persuaded it’s something worthwhile, think it’s doable, and we do it! But if that’s all that’s involved, then how do we explain the widespread failure to implement the changes repeatedly documented by research to promote more and better learning? Or, how do we account for the millions of dollars spent by organizations such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) on educational reform that has resulted in few lasting changes?
Donald R. Bacon, editor of the Journal of Marketing Education and notable pedagogical scholar, points out in the journal’s Editor’s Corner that perceived learning and actual learning are “distinctly different constructs.” An accurate understanding of those differences needs to be part of our thinking.
It’s a feedback mechanism that’s been around for some time. Most often used during a course, students are asked to fold a sheet of paper in thirds and label the columns stop, start, and continue. Then they are asked to identify aspects of instruction that the teacher should stop doing, things they’d like the teacher to consider doing, and those practices they’d recommend that the teacher continue doing. What they identify in each area should be instructional policies, practices, or behaviors that relate to their learning experiences in the course.