Yesterday, on 11 July, we held two synchronous sessions via Skype during which engineering students and tutors at the University of Glasgow had a chance to discuss the EAST collaboration in more detail, particularly the introductory phase: Constructive Feedback Course.
This phase is important for several reasons. First of all, it aims to ease the Gazan students into working together online in English. In the next two weeks, in groups of three, they are going to complete a series of individual and collaborative tasks and experience the challenges of meeting deadlines, communicating, negotiating and managing workload in unstable online environments. The course focuses on the provision of constructive feedback as this is the role they are going to take on during the collaboration with the Glasgow-based students. This requires that they are skilled in sharing their knowledge in ways that inspire and motivate their peers to work harder and come up with more effective solutions.
We discussed all this during via Skype yesterday. Prior to the session the students had been assigned a preparatory task which asked them to reflect on their understanding of feedback. Namely they were requested to finish the simile: ‘Feedback is like …’ by using a relevant visual. They used a number of apt metaphors like ‘lighthouse’, ‘speed indicator’, ‘magnifying glass’, ‘road map’, ‘battery’, ‘backbone’ or ‘white cane’, which all point at the different aspects of the reviewer’s role like providing guidance, motivating, supporting, directing, empowering, etc. The students also shared their personal experiences of being given feedback which can be seen on this online display.We then considered features of constructive feedback, which can be summarised as follows:
- constructive feedback focuses on positives and advantages of the work under review as well as negatives or areas of improvement; the former aims to encourage and motivate the student while the latter intends to indicate what needs further work;
- constructive feedback requires stepping into somebody else’s shoes in order to recognise and appreciate their perspective;
- constructive feedback has to be clear, specific and detailed and use examples to clearly convey what needs to be done to improve the work;
- constructive feedback focuses on solutions as well, not necessarily by telling what these solutions are but by suggesting that certain alternative routes are explored;
- constructive feedback often summarises the work under review – this helps to evaluate whether the reviewer’s understanding is aligned with that of the author; in the case of academic writing this is very important as we write for a specific audience in order to achieve a specific effect on the reader.
Having laid the foundations for further research, the students signed up for groups and commenced reading about ways of providing constructive feedback and I’m looking forward to seeing what they find out!