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Teaching and Learning Technologies

Giving Quick & Meaningful Feedback to Students Through Canvas Speedgrader

January 14, 2022
ND Learning

By Alex Ambrose and Laura Cira

Students thrive when they receive meaningful feedback on their work. Whether that takes the form of notes written in the margins of drafted papers, face-to-face interaction, or automated feedback and grades on formative quizzes, instructor interaction gives students the means they need to improve their work and actively build on their expanding knowledge. 

Research shows that, when done effectively, feedback can positively influence student learning and achievement. After conducting a meta-analysis, Hattie & Timperley (2007) created the model in Figure 1 below summarizing impactful elements of feedback.

A flow chart model of feedback to enhance learning. At the top, there is purpose. Below it shows two ways the discrepancy can be reduced: 1) through students efforts and strategies and 2) through teachers challenging and assisting students and setting goals. The flow chart then shows how effective feedback can answer three questions "where am I going, how am I going, where to next" consistently aligning with the answers "feed up, feed back, and feed forward." Each feedback question works at four levels: a task level, a process level, a self regulation level, and a self level.
Figure 1: A model of feedback to enhance learning

Frequency and timeliness are important components of effective feedback. A student is most open to constructive criticism while their project or paper is fresh in their minds. Often, however, instructors find that providing feedback for students can be time-consuming and challenging, particularly when incorporated with online technologies. 

In the past, instructors would be forced to choose between analog or digital delivery methods since feedback modalities can include:

  • Written
    • Handwritten annotations and marginal comments
    • Typed summative comments
  • Oral 
    • Face to face individual consultations
    • Asynchronous recorded audio comments
  • Video
    • Asynchronous screencast and webcam recordings of instructor

In recent years, notably the last two, instructors have increasingly utilized learning management platforms for collecting and assessing student work. As educational technology has matured, it is now possible to easily provide any of these forms of feedback within a single system.

One of the most useful systems available to instructors at Notre Dame is Canvas and its SpeedGrader. Attached to assignments as the primary method of grading, SpeedGrader has several built-in functions that enable personalized instructor feedback no matter which assignment format you use. Instructors find SpeedGrader quick to navigate, with features that allow them flexibility in how they engage with student work. Uploaded files can be annotated with the DocViewer; grading criteria can be assigned through an attached rubric; and comments can include an attachment or media file, recorded on the spot. SpeedGrader is also available for discussion topics and quizzes. 

For the student, this means a common format for instructor notes in an easy-to-navigate screen whether they access it through the course grade book, assignments list, or simply from the Recent Feedback section of their account To-Do list. And for students, who increasingly access coursework from their mobile devices, the feedback is available to them there as well. 

If you would like to schedule a consultation to talk more about the pedagogy or technology please reach out to Alex Ambrose and Laura Cira. See also:

Ambrose, G. Alex, Donahoe, Emily (2021)  “Effective Grading and Efficient Feedback” ND Learning | Kaneb Center for Teaching Excellence Workshop. 


Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112.