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Dr Vincent Tong

Dr Tong teaches level 5 and 6 modules in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He has received two awards from Birkbeck for excellence and innovation in teaching. Both awards have been for his focus on providing effective support and feedback for students’ learning. The first award, in 2009, was for designing an electronic feedback database to link assignments and exams. The second, in 2010 was for his project on pre-lecture electronic feedback for teaching. Vincent describes his approach to using technology in education as “Technology Empowered Learning”.

Vincent advocates making feedback a tool for teaching.

  • Feedback should have an importance that is equivalent to a lecture.
  • It should enhance both the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching.
  • Feedback on assessments should be forward-looking; teaching students to do better in future. Then, lecturers can actively teach using feedback.
  • All the elements on the module can be linked together via assignment feedback: Teaching, assignments and exams.
  • The feedback should become part of the course materials and not a supplementary component.
  • Students don't always read feedback, but feed forward will help them in the future so students have an incentive.
  • Assessment should not be just “formative” or “summative”, but self-reflective.  Sometimes, this aspect does not receive the prominence it deserves.

 

Developing a database to provide effective and efficient feedback

Vincent’s first teaching award was gained via his development of a database to provide feedback. He suggests that most feedback and feedforward is repetitive because students tend to make the same mistakes, so a database of comments can be extremely helpful. Although this database would normally be digital, Vincent points out that it can also be paper-based because the principle is the same.  Each time a new mistake is discovered, feedback and feedforward is added to the database. Then this database may be shared with colleagues teaching in similar areas.

An initial investment of time is required to construct the database, but this will quickly pay off if you have large classes. Vincent urges colleagues to start small with the really repetitive comments. Focus on the one area that saves the most time. Include comments and examples. One way to start is to collect your feedback over the years so you don't have to start from scratch.

 

Pre-lecture feedback for driving student-centred teaching

Vincent received his second teaching award for this approach. Starting from the question of “how to link different teaching sessions”, He used asynchronous electronic surveys to ask students for feedback before a revision session. He would begin by reminding students about what was taught the previous week and then pose several questions online, encouraging self-reflection of understanding and focusing students on key points already covered in the module.  From the responses to the survey, Vincent could gauge the level of understanding of the previous week’s lecture and could tailor the next lecture accordingly.

Students were not required to prepare for this survey because the survey is not an online test.  The questions are reflective in nature and do not have any right or wrong answers.  Students are likely to be honest about their weaknesses due to the anonymity of the survey. Most students were highly engaged by the ability to see what their cohort thought. Students mentioned in the course evaluations that this approach has motivated them to study outside class

He suggests that the technical aspects of setting up the survey are no more difficult than using MS Word because it is easy to set up an online survey via free websites such as SurveyMonkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com). The survey takes no more than a few minutes to set up and then SurveyMonkey emails the link to the webpage containing the survey. He can see how many students have responded and a bar chart indicating their responses. This can be shown to students and can act as a very engaging focus for a discussion in the next lecture. Dr Tong has used this approach successfully with colleagues from different departments in the UK and around the world.

 

Selected Publications in scholarship of learning and teaching:

Tong, V. C. H. (ed.), Geoscience Research and Education: Teaching at Universities, Springer, 2014

Tong, V. C. H., Towards Technology- and Research-Enhanced Education (TREE): Electronic Feedback as a Teaching Tool, in Geoscience Research and Education, Innovations in Science Education and Technology, v. 20, 2014.

Tong, V. C. H., From Research-Implicit to Research-Enhanced Teaching: A Geoscience Perspective, in Geoscience Research and Education, Innovations in Science Education and Technology, v. 20, 2014.

Tong, V. C. H. and D. S. L. Chow, A study of student participation and nonparticipation in prelecture electronic surveys, British Journal of Educational Technology (2013), v. 44, 869-880, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01374.x.

Tong, V. C. H., Using asynchronous electronic surveys to help in-class revision: A case study, British Journal of Educational Technology (2012), v. 43, n. 3, 465-473, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01207.x

Tong, V. C. H., Linking summative assessments?  Electronic feedback and feedforward in module design, British Journal of Educational Technology (2011), v. 42, n. 6 E152-155, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01226.x

Tong, C. H., Let interdisciplinary research begin in undergraduate years, Nature (2010) v. 463, 157.