Do your teachers use emojis? Research shows they should

Research into emojis + education has found that emojis inject personality and warmth into the online feedback process. Image: Shutterstock

Studies show emojis can help students accept online feedback and motivate them during home-schooling.

If you’ve been relying on remote and flexible learning the last few months, chances are you’ve been communicating regularly with teachers and lecturers online. But despite the convenience of chat threads and email chains, receiving feedback on assessments from behind a screen is arguably one of the more awkward aspects of eLearning.

Studies show that without quick in-person check-ins equipped with visual gestures – like facial expressions and physical cues – assessment comments are more likely to be misinterpreted, a downside to communicating digitally that RMIT psychology lecturer Dr Robyn Moffitt says can be solved by using emojis.

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It’s all in the OG smile

Dr Moffitt’s research into emoji use in education has confirmed that emojis inject personality and warmth into the online feedback process, motivating students while softening the impact of more critical comments.

“Emoji is the new currency of electronic communication. It’s taken over how we communicate online in social contexts with peers and friends, so it makes sense that it also has a place in education,” she says. “It’s a quick and effective way to communicate warmth and emotion, even if you’re providing constructive feedback or highlighting areas for improvement.”

And if you’re a teacher worried that emojis might seem too informal? Don’t be! According to Dr Moffitt’s findings, they don’t make the marker seem any less professional or affect students’ perception of the feedback quality.

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“The research suggests using emoji could help us to achieve the goal of feedback, which is to motivate improvement,” she says. “Emojis can demonstrate that even a not-so-positive message is still delivered with warmth and kindness; it helps to communicate that constructive feedback is given because I care and want you to learn and improve, not because I am displeased with your work.”

And if you’re a teacher keen to give the emoji thing a crack?

For any teacher unsure of which emojis to use, when delivering feedback imagine the face you’d want to portray IRL. “Using the classic smiley face emoji is a safe bet, especially to frame constructive feedback as a genuine attempt to motivate and improve,” stresses Dr Moffitt.

For example, rather than: “Be sure to proofread your work,” try: “Be sure to proofread your work.” 😊

Dr Moffitt’s research additionally found sad and confused emojis also worked in some situations but warned against overusing them and suggested a conservative approach, starting with smiling faces that clearly communicate positivity.

“Once students know teachers are open to communications with emoji, it can create new and fun ways of engaging.”

What emojis would you love to see pop up on your assessment tasks? Tweet us your dream emoji-fied teachers comments. 💯👏🧠

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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