Check Ins Are Here to Welcome Students

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Mar 07, 2022

Recently, Brett Christie and I led a group of faculty through our Pump Up The Feedback webinar. We walked instructors through opportunities to shift formative assessments from obligatory check-ins into welcome opportunities for students and instructors to connect. Through research, we’ve seen that this shift infinitely uplevels learner engagement. We put together a series of easy steps to Pump Up The Feedback for Formative Assessments that will lower the stakes and up the intrigue for students.

Focus on “learn while doing” rather than grades.
Promote a sense of belonging for each student.
Recognize and foster different ways of learning.
Turn formative assessments into frequent low stakes check-ins.

Formative assessments are often used once or twice a semester to inform a student of their progress, weak spots, and current grades, which creates scenarios where students dread assessments. A student might be struggling to understand the materials in a course, dealing with personal issues, or the workload could be over their heads. When an assessment is required, and treated like an overview of their performance, students worry and rightfully so.

Learning is not about performance. Learning is about growth, engagement and purpose.

Formative assessments can play a critical role in helping a student master their subject. If the assessment is successful, it functions as a feedback loop between the learner and instructor, or learner and peers.

In a Padlet questionnaire, we asked instructors to list what was working, what was not, and how we could create professional development tools to uplevel formative assessments. What we discovered was that personalization is key. Feedback should be consistent, follow a rubric, and yet it should also be delivered in a personal way to each student. The conversation should help them grow and make them feel like they belong in the class they’re enrolled in. Personal messaging, customized for the individual, seems to also work for instructors.

It’s clear that every student is different.

While some prefer video or audio feedback, others prefer in-person or online meetings. Instructors spoke of using instructional design companies like ours, or tech platforms such as Top Hat, which enable teachers to use weekly exit tickets to provide ongoing feedback for each learner.

We offered techniques and questions for instructors to ask students, such as: what was the muddiest point in this assignment for you? How can I be clearer as your teacher? What can I do to ensure that my delivery of the material is most helpful for you? Low stakes assessments ensure students stay motivated, not discouraged, keeping them enrolled, instead of dropping out. They’re also inclusive, which aids in closing learning gaps. An instructor’s primary role is to support achievement and mastery of learning outcomes for their students. They are leaders. It is their duty to both encourage students and help them feel seen and heard.

Here is a link to our Pump Up the Feedback webinar. Tune in!

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