Editor's Pick - November 2022



Teacher online feedback and learning motivation: Learning engagement as a mediator
Xiaoquan Pan and Huijuan Shao (Zhejiang Normal University), 2020, 48(6), e9118



By April 2020 around half the world’s population was locked down by their governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating the adoption of online learning for many millions of children and adults. I had been one of those language teachers forced to suddenly look for work online and to quickly navigate the different techniques required for that learning environment. So, recently, when I was searching for articles about teaching online, I was curious to see that SBP Journal had published an article in March 2020 about the relationship between teacher feedback, students’ motivation, and engagement in the context of learning English online. I was keen to see how much was known about this topic before so many were pushed into this mode of learning.

Pan and Shao used structural equation modeling and bootstrap analysis to test the relationships between teacher online feedback, learning motivation, and learning engagement, and the mediating role of the latter on the first two. While previous researchers had looked at the effectiveness of feedback, they hadn’t considered its impact on the motivation of students as this study had done, and I too was particularly interested in this question. The results show the feedback provided to university students in China was positively related to both the motivation and engagement of the undergraduates. The students perceived the instructor’s feedback as a source of support and the more positive they felt about this the more it increased their engagement and in turn their motivation. Pan and Shao also highlighted that learners preferred activity-based and developmental feedback to just evaluative feedback, but that all three were positively related to motivation and engagement. This is useful advice to keep in mind for any trainee or experienced online teacher as students need to know how to improve their language skills and not just be given a grade. The authors concluded with advice to teachers to make their feedback timely, sufficient, positive, and varying in type and focus.

Their findings and recommendations are of practical use to online language teachers, especially now as many courses have moved online permanently. Although the numbers of children and adults being taught online over the last two years have been unprecedented in terms of sheer quantity, there was research before that time to help us with not only the theory but pragmatic application of the findings. For example, I personally know of many schools that put up to 40 pupils in an online class, a situation where it is impossible to provide meaningful—if any—feedback to each student. I chose to work for a school that provided one-to-one classes in which I can provide personalized feedback. It is interesting to see that my gut instincts aligned with the research findings of Pan and Shao. Their paper also reminded me of the importance of varying the methods I use to provide feedback and not just becoming accustomed to one approach.

Helen Innes | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal