Spotlight is published twice each semester by the Office of Assessment and Continuous Improvement in the College of Education to highlight promising practices in assessment and continuous improvement. This initial edition of the Spotlight examines feedback in classroom assessment, shares an update College of Education data on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and describes several strategies for improving the success of graduate students.

Mission Statement

To deliver a personal, affordable, and top-ranked education for students who want to collaborate with renowned faculty to solve problems and effect change in the field of education in our community, our country, and around the world.

Vision Statement

A world-class college of education: leading research, engaging our communities, and preparing education and mental health professionals for innovation and impact.


  • Collaboration and Engagement
  • Commitment to Community
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Equity
  • Excellence
  • Innovation
  • Integrity

Prepared by Jeremy Penn with support from Michelle Yu and the Continuous Improvement Committee (Chris Annicella, Emily Campbell, Brian Douglas, Lois Gray, and Nancy Langguth).

To share a promising practice in a future edition of the Spotlight you are using in your classroom, in your program, or in your department, please contact

Thanks for the Feeback book cover
Classroom Assessment 

Providing Feedback on Classroom Assignments

It can be helpful to think about assessment as a way of giving feedback to students about their learning. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, in their book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, identified three critical elements of high-quality feedback: Appreciation (e.g., “thank you for the effort I see you put forth on this assignment”), Evaluation (e.g., “this paper exceeds expectations”), and Coaching (e.g., “this paper would be even better if it included a stronger grounding in research by XXX”).

Leaving out any one of these three elements can leave students with an incomplete message. For example, if you leave out appreciation, students may become discouraged and focus their attention on the outcome rather than on the task. If evaluation is not included, students will not know if their performance is sufficient, leading to uncertainty about the amount of effort needed in the future. Coaching is important as a means of focusing students’ attention on areas that will most help them improve. When grading projects and papers as we close out this semester, remember: Appreciation, Evaluation, and Coaching!

College Data Insights

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the College of Education

The College of Education’s strategic plan identified three objectives in the area of actively engaging diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism: A) Improve the college’s environment for diversity, equity, and inclusion; B) Increase the incorporation of diversity, equity, and inclusion in teaching and curricula; C) Increase the success of minoritized students. The paragraphs below briefly summarize the college’s performance in metrics related to these objectives. Additional data are available to faculty and staff with appropriate account permissions through Campus Data or the College’s Power Business Intelligence app.

            First, in terms of racial and ethnic demographics of the College of Education, the college’s undergraduate student population (9.3%) and professional and scientific staff (5.1%) include a lower percentage of racially / ethnically underrepresented individuals (American Indian, Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino/a, two or more races, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander) in comparison to similar populations at the University of Iowa (15.7% and 10.1%, respectively). In contrast, the college’s graduate students (18.8%) and tenured / tenure-track faculty (17.5%) include a higher percentage of racially / ethnically underrepresented individuals in comparison to similar populations at the University of Iowa (14% and 8.4%, respectively). For comparison, 13.1% of the population across the state of Iowa in 2019 was underrepresented individuals.

            Second, an important goal for the College of Education is timely graduation of ethnic or racial minority students and underrepresented racial minority students. The percent racial / ethnic minority students in the TEP program who graduated in a timely manner (graduating within six semesters of entrance to the upper-division TEP) was lower than for non-minority students. Similarly, the timely graduation of underrepresented doctoral students (students who start the program full-time and graduate within 12 semesters) was lower than for non-underrepresented minority students. The timely graduation for master’s students (students who start the program full-time and graduate within six semesters) was similar for underrepresented minority students and non-underrepresented minority students.

            Finally, the University of Iowa administered the 2020 Campus Climate survey earlier this semester. In the last administration of the survey in 2018, more staff in the College of Education felt there was a supportive environment for diversity in comparison to staff at the University of Iowa. However, fewer faculty felt there was a supportive environment for diversity in comparison to faculty at the University of Iowa. It will be interesting to see if these patterns continue when the 2020 results are released next semester.

Promising Practice

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed identified three strategies for improving success of graduate students used by the University of Colorado Boulder:

  1. Accountability seminars are weekly meetings for ABD students that support progress toward completion. These seminars “provide structure” and “teach students to be resilient.” More information on the seminars is available on CU’s graduate school website.
  2. Advising agreements establish the basis of a relationship between advisor and advisee and support communication and completion of short- and long-term goals. A sample agreement can be downloaded at the University of Colorado Boulder website.
  3. Writing retreats and workshops give students focused writing attention and writing feedback, typically the week just before classes begin or just after classes conclude.

These strategies may be particularly beneficial for students who are at higher risk of not completing their graduate programs.

Future Opportunities

  • Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education’s 2021 conference: June 7 – June 11 (online). Call for proposals opening soon.
  • Baldrige 2021 Quest for Excellence conference: April 12 – April 15, 2021 (online).