Personalized instructor responses to guided student reflections: Analysis of two instructors' perspectives and practices
One way to foster a supportive culture in physics departments is for instructors to provide students with personal attention regarding their academic difficulties. To this end, we have developed the Guided Reflection Form (GRF), an online tool that facilitates student reflections and personalized instructor responses. In the present work, we report on the experiences and practices of two instructors who used the GRF in an introductory physics lab course. Our analysis draws on two sources of data: (i) post-semester interviews with both instructors and (ii) the instructors' written responses to 134 student reflections. Interviews focused on the instructors' perceptions about the goals and framing of the GRF activity, and characteristics of good or bad feedback. Their GRF responses were analyzed for the presence of up to six types of statement: encouraging statements, normalizing statements, empathizing statements, strategy suggestions, resource suggestions, and feedback to the student on the structure of students' reflections. We find that both instructors used all six response types, in alignment with their perceptions of what counts as good feedback. In addition, although each instructor had their own unique feedback style, both instructors' feedback practices were compatible with two principles for effective feedback: praise should focus on effort, express confidence in students' abilities, and be sincere; and process-level feedback should be specific and strategy-oriented. This exploratory qualitative investigation demonstrates that the GRF can serve as a mechanism for instructors to pay personal attention to their students. In addition, it opens the door to future work about the impact of the GRF on student-teacher interactions.