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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Taking the Class Temperature: Cognitive and Affective Feedback | Faculty Focus

Photo: Christina Moore
Photo: Daniel A. Arnold
“Are students getting it? How do I know?” according to Christina Moore, virtual faculty developer in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University and Dan Arnold, manager of support services for e-learning & instructional support at Oakland University.

Photo: Faculty Focus

Instructors answer these questions through a variety of assessments, from small, informal methods such as asking students if they have questions, to formal, graded methods such as multiple-choice exams and research papers. These assessments provide cognitive feedback, whether in the form of a score, a correction, lack of an answer, or an abundance of questions. But is that the whole picture? While these assessments can help us gauge how well students are “getting it,” it often fails to explain why or why not.

The conditions around learning, such as students’ emotional experience, are often invisible to instructors—and sometimes even to students themselves. This type of feedback can be understood as affective feedback. Hardiman (2002) calls this “testing the emotional temperature” of the classroom and it involves getting a sense of the underlying conditions influencing students’ ability to learn effectively. Cognitive feedback tells us Student A scored a C- because she skipped nearly half of the quiz questions for a psychology course; affective feedback might tell us she struggled to process questions on trauma due to a painful connection to the subject matter. Cognitive feedback tells us Student B has missed most Friday class sessions; affective feedback might tell us he skipped these classes due to anxiety about group work. Affective feedback has the power to help instructors understand why students are going off track and help them course-correct.

You can “take the class temperature” by evaluating how often you receive both cognitive and affective feedback. We evaluate our feedback collection methods in three ways: frequency, form, and function.

  • Frequency: How often do you solicit feedback?
  • Form: In what way do you solicit feedback?
  • Function: Is feedback optional or mandatory? If mandatory, are the stakes high or low?
For example, in a freshman composition course, we found that cognitive feedback was collected every week through quizzes, problem-based learning activities, discussion forums, and projects leading up to a research paper. 
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Source: Faculty Focus