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Getting the Most Out of Faculty Feedback

Mon Oct 3, 2022 at 07:30 AM

Faculty Feedback, OU’s early alert system, is required in 0000 to 2000 level courses during the first six weeks of semester to inform students about instructor concerns regarding course attendance and performance. Faculty Feedback is effective for communicating with students when used proactively. It has the benefit of being official communication from the university that students take seriously but does not impact their grade. As shared in an earlier teaching tip, the timing of Faculty Feedback is critical, as are related actions instructors can take to supplement their feedback message. This teaching tip offers six practical uses for Faculty Feedback in conjunction with your course records and grading practices.

Faculty Feedback in the First Two Weeks: Attendance as a Key Indicator

The Office of the Provost recommends that Faculty Feedback be sent in the first two weeks of the semester for maximum effectiveness. 

  • I keep track of students’ in-person or online attendance beginning with the first day of class. If a student has an unexcused absence in the first two weeks, I send them Faculty Feedback regarding their attendance. 
  • I continue to track attendance throughout the semester. I identify students who have more than one unexcused absence during the six weeks Faculty Feedback is open and send them a message when I notice the problem. In other words, a student may receive a message about attendance as late as Week 6 if that is when their attendance problem occurred. 

Selecting the Issue of Highest Importance

Faculty Feedback allows instructors to select one issue of highest importance for their message: Not Attending, Meet with Me, Struggling Academically, or Time Management. I select an issue as follows:

  • Students who are absent typically also fail to submit assignments. In such cases, I have to decide between “not attending” and “time management.”
    • I select “not attending” in Weeks 1-2 because this is when the Office of the Provost aims to identify students who are registered but not attending. 
    • If a student develops the double problem of poor attendance and missed assignments in later weeks, I select “time management” at that time because the student will begin to lose many points by failing to submit assignments.
  • If attendance is not a problem but the student has missed even one assignment, I send a “time management” message. This alerts the student to the fact that they missed an assignment and need to watch course deadlines.
  • I have multiple entries in the grade book each week beginning with Week 1, which allows me to see quickly if a student is struggling. Within the first few weeks of the course, I can detect an emerging pattern of poor performance, and I send a “struggling academically” message. 
  • I rarely send “meet with me” messages because they do not indicate the nature of the problem the student has in the course. I prefer the other three selections, which state the instructor’s concern more specifically.

Sending Two Faculty Feedback Messages

Although it is awkward to send two Faculty Feedback messages to the same student since the wording of the message template is fixed, if I find that a student who received a “not attending” message early in the semester later begins to miss assignments, I will send them a “time management” message. This also helps to address the common pattern of absences paired with missing assignments.

Students Following Up with You

Students are sometimes genuinely perplexed about why they received Faculty Feedback from me. They may not realize that my course has a mandatory attendance requirement, or they may have overlooked assignments on Moodle. When a student contacts me to follow up on Faculty Feedback, I am always willing to discuss further. The supplementary discussion we have is useful for helping students understand my course policies and what assignments they have missed.

Keeping Records of Faculty Feedback

Instructors receive an e-mailed report after sending Faculty Feedback. It is also useful to keep track of Faculty Feedback in the following ways:

  • I keep a record of Faculty Feedback in the Moodle grade book. I use the feedback column in the grade book to indicate when I sent a particular student Faculty Feedback. I typically enter a note in the feedback cell for the assignment whose due date corresponds most closely to the time I sent Faculty Feedback. The note reminds the student they need to pay attention to my Faculty Feedback and also helps me keep track of students I am monitoring. (If you need help with any aspect of the Moodle grade book, set up a one-on-one consultation with e-LIS. Also see my teaching tip on the Moodle grade book.)
  • I maintain a document with a running list of students who have received Faculty Feedback. I record the course, student’s name, date of the feedback, and the issue I selected. Since I usually teach multiple courses each semester, the list enables me to check quickly which students have received Faculty Feedback.

Assigning Final Grades

Sometimes students who perform poorly in the course contact me in an effort to raise their final grade. I do not change grades in response to such requests. Faculty Feedback is useful for showing the student they had a pattern of poor performance in my course. If a student received Faculty Feedback but continued to have problems in the course, I explain that I alerted them to issues with their course performance early on. This is also documented in the note I place in the Moodle grade book.

Conclusion

By using Faculty Feedback actively early on in the semester and throughout the six week period it is open, instructors gain a convenient tool to communicate with students about their course attendance and performance. Since Faculty Feedback is sent from the Office of the Provost, students are likely to see it as authoritative and may have a greater willingness to address their instructor’s concerns.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

About the Author

Helena Riha teaches Linguistics and International Studies. She has taught over 3,300 students at OU in 16 different courses and is currently developing a new online General Education course. Helena is the 2016 winner of the OU Excellence in Teaching Award. This is her fourteenth teaching tip. Outside of the classroom, Helena enjoys watching her sixth grader design his own Lego creations.

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