University of Wisconsin–Madison

Fall Kickoff 2013

The sun sets over pumpkins and produce growing in a plot at the Eagle Heights Community Garden at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on Sept. 30, 2013. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

How can instructors give prompt and effective feedback to enhance student learning?

At numerous points during a typical class instructors have the opportunity to give feedback to students about how well they did on assignments, papers, or exams, and how they might have done better. Students depend on such feedback to help them improve their future performance. This is why giving prompt feedback is listed as one of the seven “principles for good practice in undergraduate education” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987).

On Friday October 4th, the UW-Teaching Academy held its 2013 Fall Kickoff symposium on Enhancing student learning through feedback in Union South. Campus experts shared with about 100 instructors from across discipline some research-based principles and experience-informed practices on how to provide effective feedback in diverse contexts.

Professor David Baum and Jamie Henke, Co-Organizers of this event and also Teaching Academy Executive Committee members, said the symposium was initiated in response to the sense that students do not always receive the prompt and helpful feedback that they need. Organized through UW-Teaching Academy, the aim of the symposium was to raise our teachers’ awareness of feedback as a high-impact practice in undergraduate education.

An introductory video showcased UW undergraduates’ opinions on feedback. Then, Erin McCloskey, Distance Education Professional Development Curriculum Director, followed up with a keynote on The importance of feedback in higher education and principles of quality feedback. She defined feedback as “actionable information about progress towards a goal to inform or direct future learning and performance” and provided guidance on what makes feedback and feedback practices effective.

Brad Hughes, Director of The Writing Center and Writing Across the Curriculum, gave another keynote on Questioning Assumptions: What Makes for Effective Feedback on Student Writing. Highlighting teaching as interaction, he mapped out some characteristics of effective feedback and gave advice on how to give holistic and summative feedback, and how to deploy appropriate rubrics. He aptly concluded that teachers’ genuine feedback is appreciated by students, though sometimes their appreciation may not be expressed till years afterwards.

After the keynotes, Janet Batzli from Biocore moderated four short talks given by Michelle Harris from Biocore and Katalin Dósa from Nelson Institute on Training TAs to give consistent and fair feedback, Beth Fahlberg from Nursing onIndividualizing student feedback to promote learning, Jon McKenzie from English and DesignLab on Framing feedback for smart media projects, and John Booske from Electrical and Computer Engineering and WisCEL on Quality, quantity and diversity of feedback in WisCEL courses enhances relationships and improves learning. Their diverse insights included novel feedback strategies, introduction to practical feedback tools in Learn@UW, as well as personal stories on giving effective feedback to individual students.

The symposium ended with lunch discussions with the speakers. We would like to thank all our presenters for kindly staying through the whole morning and sharing their ideas with our participants. We hope that the conversations on giving prompt feedback starting at the symposium will continue and expand across this campus.


Symposium Organizing Committee:  David Baum (Co-Organizer); Jamie Henke (Co-Organizer); Chris Lupton; Beth Martin; Erica Halverson; Michelle Harris; Debra Shapiro, Janet Batzli and Katalin Dosa.

Many Thanks to our Co-Sponsors: Vice-Provost Office for Teaching and Learning, Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence Program, DoIT Academic Technology, and Office of the Secretary of the Faculty – New Faculty Services.