Weaving online feedback is one of the most important things e-facilitators do.
Weaving feedback means:
- summarizing a discussion by finding threads of unity in the comments of participants and weaving them together into one piece of feedback to the group so that learner responses are connected
- relating learners’ contributions to existing knowledge about the topic
- recognizing the contributions made by learners
- prompting learners to elaborate into a direction that further supports the learning outcomes (pre-set as well as constructed).
It is more than just summarizing a discussion. Instead it connects participants’ contributions to the workshop’s themes and applies higher level concepts to the participants’ ideas and experiences.
Weaving can be used to get either an open or a structured discussion back on track. It is also often be used to give meaningful feedback on teamwork.
When the participants have completed an online team task, it is not enough to get back to them with ‘Well done – now move on.’ They will want to know what it is that you liked in their work and why. Good feedback is a very important motivational factor and can also further promote team and group cohesion.
Feedback on teamwork in the form of a ‘woven’ message allows you to pull in the interesting comments from each participant. Ensure that you mention them all by name at least once in this feedback posting.
In the context of teamwork, I suggest to do this when the work has been completed. We don’t want to ‘interrupt’ teamwork online (except to clarify). It’s similar to how we don’t want to constantly look over the shoulders of our learners in face-to-face group work. We need to give them space to think, as well as negotiate and formulate solutions.
Replying to every message would not only be counter-productive, it would also create a huge workload for the facilitator. Weaving makes sure we show that we’ve been there all along and that we acknowledge all the hard work. This is highly motivational and has a positive impact on participation rates.
What does woven online feedback look like?
This is an extract from a piece of woven feedback (from one of the team tasks in the e-facilitation workshop):
Paul mentioned ‘listening skills’. I couldn’t agree more, yet it’s so often overlooked. Listening skills are an interesting aspect of the role requirements, because in fact we mean ‘reading skills’ – thanks for specifying this, Lisa. Now, we can all read – but are we good ‘readers’? Good reading skills are very often taken for granted. People tend to ‘browse’ through information, especially online, without absorbing the essence of the message, missing out on important guidance, instructions and content. A good e-facilitator needs to be thorough in the way he/she reads text, the text in the workshop/course and also the text in the many forum contributions posted by participants. It comes down to a strong sense for detail, which was suggested by Jean-Claude. This is indeed a very important skill to have. It allows the e-facilitator to offer tailored and meaningful feedback. More on this in this week’s resource on […]
In the earlier example, I am giving feedback to contributions by Paul, Lisa and Jean-Claude. The three points that I raise here in my feedback were initially part of their posts in their team’s forum.
How do I get from over one hundred forum posts (which is easily the case for any team task in a eWorkshop with 25 participants) to a piece of woven feedback?
This is how:
- For each team, prepare a Word document with subtitles that reflect the themes of your feedback (for increased readability, because woven feedback is typically a longish post)
- Go through the discussion in chronological order and copy snippets of all contributions (could be just a few key words telegram style or a full quote) into the Word document; put the name of the contributor in front of each snippet
- Put these snippets under the right subheading
- Identify the unifying themes
- Identify the points of disagreement
- Summarize by a sentence or bullet point or two for each of the themes, identifying points of agreement and disagreement, perhaps by giving examples, attributed to the originator
- Add your positive and reinforcing feedback.
- Add your criticism and point out omissions.
- Add your congratulations.
- Add your ‘meta’ (overall) comments or training points.
- If you wish to move on the discussion, ask specific but open-ended questions.
- Delete all the original data and create simple formatting for ease of reading.
- Post with a clear title and invite further comment.
The meta comments, examples and training points are all written out in another Word document which I keep open while I write the woven feedback. I continuously copy from that document and weave these points through the initial selection of contributions under a particular theme.
In this example, the feedback gets ‘sculpted (yes, it feels a bit like sculpting) as follows.
After going through the forums for the team task, I have a few pages of this:
Paul: listening skills
Lisa: reading skills
Jean-Claude: thorough reading with strong sense for detail
In my meta feedback document for this task I have the following paragraph about this topic specifically:
Listening skills is one of the essential aptitudes – yet often overlooked. In fact, in the online context, we mean ‘reading skills’. Now, we can all read – but are we good ‘readers’? Don’t take good reading skills for granted. People tend to ‘browse’ through information, especially online, without absorbing the essence of the message, missing out on important guidance, instructions and content. A good e-facilitator needs to be thorough in the way he/she reads text, the text in the workshop/course and also the text in the many forum contributions posted by participants. It comes down to a strong sense for detail, a very important skill to have. It allows the e-facilitator to offer tailored and meaningful feedback. More on this in this week’s resource on […]
Now read the feedback again. Have you noticed how weaving the meta text into the participants’ contributions makes the feedback feel like it’s written specifically for their team?
How much time does it take to weave online feedback?
Although online weaving may be time-consuming and challenging, it still reduces the workload compared to a situation where the facilitator replies to every message. It also has considerable didactical value as it provides an opportunity for the facilitator to make substantive interventions while at the same time recognizing and linking into the learners’ understandings of the course concepts.
It does take time of course. To give you a rough idea, 6-8 hours feedback writing for one team task for a group of 25 participants sounds about right. That’s 15-20 minutes per person, which I think is the least we can do considering they each put on average 8 hours of work in one team task. How awful would it feel to just receive a “well done” and a link to a model answer after doing all this work?