Friday, February 24, 2012

On (Electronic) Feedback (or trying not to panic because I have 43 papers to grade)

Before I forget, I want to register here that I think that this post by Anastasia is excellent (and not really a ramble, BTW, because it's important to revisit one's history with this particular subject ;). Maybe I should check the post she links too (Dr. Crazy's), but I'll do that later.

I have a hard time giving significant feedback to my students. I even participated of a "rubric design" workshop a while back, but I still have a hard time coming up with a good rubric. I wrote TONS of the "bad feedback" comments that Anastasia describes in her post in my three years as a teaching assistant and my two years as a instructor during grad school.

Anastasia's argument in a nutshell: "The clearer a teacher can make expectations and feedback, the better the work she'll get from her students, and the more they'll grow."


I wish I could do that for my students -- but I don't know how clear my expectations about the paper that they turned in last night are. Several students talked to me and two of them even provided me with drafts so I could annotate them (I did that twice for one student yesterday! I hope it helped, because her paper was really bad).

In any case, let me ramble now. I could even find lots of links for posts in this very blog in which I talk about the kind of feedback I received for my dissertation (useless from one person, way too useful from two others -- thankfully! That's why I'm a doctor today), but I'm too tired to go look and re-read these posts.

During my classwork in graduate school I didn't receive very good feedback (similar to the feedback received by Anastasia), but in the last three months "dissertating" I guess I received a huge mountain of feedback that would be enough to correspond to all of my ten years of being a graduate student!

Why so? Because of electronic annotating and track changes in ms word.

How many of you use that? I know (from my horrifying experience working for Axia/ University of Phoenix for a few months) how hard it is to provide electronic feedback, it truly is. And I am eternally thankful for the effort my former advisor and the (unofficial) co-chair of dissertation for having provided me with electronic feedback.

So... I argue here that writing with pen on a printed copy your student's makes it harder to give good feedback. At least for me and based on my experience with the dissertation. Most people can type way faster than writing on paper and that alone helps with the amount of feedback that can be given. Of course, since it's easier to make comments, we run the risk of writing excessively when annotating a paper electronically (I did get really long, rambling comments on the dissertation and while they were helpful, they were sometimes overwhelming).

Now, there might be a downside to tracking changes when correcting grammar and structure -- do the students really learn if all they have to do to have their paper corrected is to "accept changes." Isn't that part of the job of a good teacher, though? To help the students write better?

OK, I have no idea whether my arguments make any sense from you. Can you please let me know what's your opinion about giving electronic feedback to students?

One important perk: it saves paper and trees!!
(but you risk taking forever to actually grade and a pile of paper is lighter than a laptop!).

I wrote this late last night, but I'm publishing today 'cause it looks like I'm in a "blogging binge" these days & I have to spread out the posts!

1 comment:

Rene said...

This is a tricky and time consuming part of the job. Giving the students clear expectations and a copy of the rubric helps me a lot. One thing I do with the grammar mistakes is fix and comment on the first error, but then just highlight subsequent ones (of the same type) and let the student figure out how to fix them based on the previous example and comment.

Recently I've been giving more of my feedback digitally--initially with track changes and now with comments on Google Docs, and I definitely see pros and cons. Another positive thing about digital feedback is that it's harder for the paper and the comments to be lost. I'm even experimenting with having students write several of their major assignments on the same document so that they have to scroll down and re-visit the comments from the previous paper before beginning the next. I read something interesting about a school that was switching to Google Docs and doing something like this; I'll try to send you the link later.