Community Member

Using Feedback to promote learning

Hi everyone,

Just wanting to ask for some tips on how to use Canvas to start a feedback centred course with my students.

Any ideas on the best design of a course and what helps encourage students to make the most of the feedback given. I've started using marked quizzes for content checking but want to go further with discussions and assignments.

I work in a blended classroom so maybe some ideas on how to structure units in and out of class too?

Thank you

10 Replies
Community Team
Community Team

Hi  @rachael_donalds !

This question excites me! I've done quite a bit of reflection on my grading practices (Stuck in a 4.0-Scale World), and I continuously come back to the value of formative and summative feedback. It's so powerful to give students information that can help guide them through their learning. While students are point-driven, it's an on-going challenge to make them feedback- and learning-driven.

With my courses, a few ways I easily emphasize feedback in assessments is through Peer Reviews and Learning Outcomes.

With Peer Reviews, students provide feedback for their classmates. As an instructor, you can decide whether or not to make these anonymous between the students, yet you can see who-said-what. (How do I create a peer review assignment?‌) I think students pick up a lot by looking at peers' work, and they learn to value the time that goes into receiving feedback on their own assignments.

Last year, I ditched points altogether for my major projects. Instead, I made the projects complete-incomplete in the gradebook and focused on providing feedback with Rubrics. My students loved how learning objectives and standards were organized in the rubric, and how the Learning Mastery scores in the Grades page‌ helped them document and plan for their strength and weakness. The Learning Mastery Gradebook was a huge push for me to provide feedback and to coach students on an individual basis. Unknown to the students, I documented grades on my old points-based system and compared it to their progress with standards. I was pleasantly surprised that I saw higher academic achievement when points were not a factor.

To encourage my students to truly utilize the feedback they receive from me and from their peers, I offer them an opportunity to revise any major project within two weeks of receiving a score or critique. If they are motivated to make changes to their project and resubmit, listening to the feedback they received, I usually allow them to resubmit without penalty. ...as long as their first attempt was given genuine effort.

I know there are many ways to get students meaningful feedback in any Canvas course. I'll leave my post at this, for now, as I could talk for white a while!

I can't wait for others to chime in. The potential in this collaborative discussion is amazing. Smiley Happy

Community Champion

Hi  @rachael_donalds ‌! Like Kristin, I've gone for a complete/incomplete approach to grading, where students record completed assignments in the Gradebook directly (with "Declarations" - details here), and I keep all my focus on feedback, while also helping the students learn how to give each other useful feedback too. I don't really use Canvas for that, although being able to put my students in charge of their own grading this way works great in Canvas!

A big boost for that has been making growth mindset an explicit part of the class, and spending a couple of weeks encouraging students to think about feedback and read some articles about both giving and receiving feedback.

Here's how I introduce students to growth mindset in the first week:

Week 1: Growth Mindset

Then here are the follow-up assignments about feedback:

Week 2: Thoughts on Feedback

Week 3: How to Give Feedback

And I make growth mindset a regular part of the class by including growth mindset cats every day in the announcements, etc. I keep my growth mindset resources at this blog:

Growth Mindset Resources 

I also built a Canvas resource course to share those materials:

Exploring Growth Mindset: Exploring Growth Mindset 

Since I teach writing, and I really want to emphasize the creative, risk-taking aspects of writing, getting rid of grades and shifting to feedback has worked really well, and the students also seem very eager to learn about feedback strategies since they can see how that skill goes far beyond the classroom and applies to their future professional lives! 

To grow, you need constructive criticism. 🙂

To grow, you need constructive criticism. One cat helps another.

Coach Emeritus

Hi  @rachael_donalds ‌, and thank you for starting this very important discussion. Depending on who you ask, instructor presence (feedback), is one of the most important determinants of student success in online courses. Personally, I suspect it might be the most important determinant along with a course design that facilitates (and requires) instructor presence. 

We might also note that feedback is a key component of the Department of Education's Regular and Substantive Interaction requirements to qualify for Financial Aid.

Below are some quickly identified resources you might find useful:

I am following this discussion to both hear what other have to say - such as the very wise Laura Gibbs, and to participate myself as time allows!


Thanks for those links,  @kmeeusen ‌! This is one of those things that comes up in discussion of online learning all the time, as if somehow the idea is that you are less likely to find regular, substantive feedback in an online course compared to a classroom course. For me, it's just the opposite; one of the things I like best about teaching online is being able to work with students individually, week by week... that was really hard for me in the classroom by comparison. Online, with the students' blog posts popping up like thought bubbles in a cartoon, I can always interact with the students in meaningful and fun ways!

The blog stream for this semester is already hopping...!



WORD Laura!

I think the DOE is applying a time-worn stereotype to online education that assumes that regular and substantive faculty interaction is the norm in traditional classroom - horse-hocky! I think we have all taken traditional courses where the teacher lectures, the students listen, and if you are lucky you can get 30 minutes of office time scheduled three weeks out. Other than that, the only interaction is a red grade at the top of a page of returned homework.

I am in my online classrooms every day! Even weekends and holidays, although I do not always make my presence obviously known to my students, but the ones who pay attention know I was there.


AGREED. And I just added a Flipgrid to my classes! This is something new, but I hope it will be yet another way I can connect with students... I've always loved teaching online, but new tools like this make it even more fun. 🙂

flipgrid screenshot

Oh yes  @kmeeusen on't you love the ease when you have a grand teacher idea moment and can immediately act on it, embed it, start encouraging and shepherding without waiting for Monday. So satisfying. 

OMG Yes!

As an LMS Admin, I always promote the  ability for our students to access their courses 24/7, and the difference that can make for learning.

However, the same is true for teachers with a similar impact on our ability to teach!

Life is good, Bobby!


Community Member

Thank you everyone that has posted a reply! I am certainly in a group of great online educators. Please keep sharing as I am learning a lot from everyone here. Reading your blogs makes me realise the importance of being connected and connecting others via feedback. Much appreciated!

Coach Emeritus

 @rachael_donalds how did I not notice this fab discussion before?!

The power of feedback within a blended environment excites me ridiculously. 

 @KristinL ‌, laurakgibbs, and  @kmeeusen always have great insight into such things. You have all given me much food for thought here. 

This is a topic that needs to be shared with K-6 people. I'm sure that experiencing great feedback in primary/elementary school can build skills for all learners early on that can make life long learning that much better. Harnessing the feedback loop between teacher and student can only lead to greater things for all concerned.