Module 2: Grading and Feedback

In this module, we will explore the essential aspects of grading student work and providing effective feedback in the online learning environment. Grading and feedback are crucial components of the teaching process, as they promote student learning, growth, and continuous improvement.

Module Objectives:

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Develop strategies to manage grading workload efficiently and effectively without compromising the quality of feedback provided.
  • Develop strategies for delivering formative feedback that focuses on student growth and improvement that encourages self-reflection.
  • Develop strategies for providing comprehensive and balanced summative feedback on student performance at the end of a unit, module, or course. 
  • Explore high-impact feedback practices that have a significant positive effect on student learning and engagement. 

Section1: Prompt Grading 
One of the most common complaints on student course evaluations is “the instructor took too long to grade my work.” Students use their grades, and the feedback you provide along with their grades, to understand how well they are doing in the course and what they need to do differently going forward. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Establish a grading schedule
  • Vary uses of different grading scales (e.g., complete/incomplete, pass/fail, letter grades, numerical scales)
  • Limit your comments or notations to holistic improvements

Additional Resources

Section 2: Formative Feedback 
Formative feedback, or assessment, is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify instruction to improve student attainment. The goal of a formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. It also helps faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems more quickly. Some examples might include:

  • Concept maps
  • Brainstorming
  • Journaling
  • Quizzes/Polls/Voting

Additional Resources


Section 3: Summative Feedback 
Summative feedback, or assessment, is designed to assess the effectiveness of student learning. The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it against a standard or benchmark; these assessments may be distributed throughout a course or a culminating course activity, or their final grade. The feedback usually involves students receiving a grade that indicates their level of performance. Grading systems can include a letter, percentage, pass/fail, or some other form of scale grade. Examples include:

  • High-stakes tests (e.g., midterms/finals)
  • Culminating projects, papers, or theses
  • Questionnaires, observations, or interviews

Additional Resources

Section 4: High-Impact Feedback Practices 
High-impact feedback practices refer to the strategies and approaches that instructors use to provide meaningful and constructive feedback to students that promote their learning and growth. These practices aim to go beyond simply providing grades or corrections and focus on engaging students in the feedback process, offering specific guidance, and fostering reflection and improvement. Here are some examples of high-impact feedback practices:

  • Timeliness: Providing feedback in a timely manner allows students to make connections between their performance and the given task. Prompt feedback ensures that students can still recall their work and apply the feedback constructively. This can be achieved by setting clear deadlines for feedback provision and leveraging technology to provide feedback efficiently.

  • Specificity: Feedback should be specific and focused on particular aspects of student performance. Instead of general comments, provide detailed observations and suggestions related to strengths, areas for improvement, and specific examples from the student's work. Specific feedback helps students understand their strengths and areas that need further development.

  • Clarity and constructive tone: Feedback should be clear and easy to understand, avoiding ambiguous language or jargon. Use a constructive and supportive tone to create a positive learning environment. Emphasize the value of feedback as a tool for growth and improvement, encouraging students to view feedback as an opportunity for learning.

  • Targeted guidance: Tailor feedback to individual student needs, considering their progress, learning style, and goals. Identify specific areas where students can enhance their understanding, critical thinking, or application of concepts. Offer guidance on how students can address gaps or develop their skills further. Personalized feedback helps students see their unique path to improvement.

  • Encouraging self-reflection: Promote student self-reflection by asking thoughtful questions that encourage them to analyze their work, identify strengths, and reflect on areas that need improvement. Encourage students to reflect on their learning process, strategies, and approaches, fostering metacognitive skills. Self-reflection enhances student engagement and ownership of their learning.

  • Feedback dialogue: Encourage students to engage in a dialogue with you about their feedback. Offer opportunities for follow-up discussions, clarification, or additional guidance. This helps build rapport, allows for further explanation, and addresses any misconceptions or questions students may have.

  • Feedforward: In addition to providing feedback on completed work, offer feedforward by providing guidance and suggestions for future assignments or tasks. Help students understand how they can apply the feedback received to improve their future performance. This forward-looking approach supports continuous improvement and helps students make connections between feedback and their ongoing learning journey.

By implementing high-impact feedback practices, instructors can create a supportive and effective feedback loop that enhances student learning, fosters their growth, and promotes a culture of continuous improvement.

Additional Resources

Dr. Shani Fleming, Associate Professor and Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer at the UMB Graduate School discusses instructional strategies for giving helpful and timely feedback in online courses in this two-part video series: 

  • FCTL UMB. (2020, February 10). Feedback Part 1 & 2 [Video]. YouTube. OTC 3-20-20 Part I & OTC 3-20-20 Part II

Eric Belt, EdD, Senior Academic Innovation Specialist in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Maryland, Baltimore discusses the recent research trends, advantages, and drawbacks of providing online students with asynchronous video feedback.

  • FCTL UMB. (2023, April 7). The Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Video Feedback [Video]. YouTube. OTC 4-7-23