- I want students to focus more on using feedback to improve and think about their writing than obsess about the grade.
- I want the feedback to feel like a conversation.
- I want students to find the feedback helpful.
- I want to see improvements in writing from assignment to assignment based on feedback.
- On Tuesdays before an assignment is due we peer edit in class workshop style. We do this in Google Docs. They share their drafts with their pod group and me. While they edit each others' papers and provide feedback, I look at, and provide feedback on every single introduction.
- On Thursdays before an assignment is due there is no class, just extended office hours. Attending office hours, once per assignment, is 1% of their grade, and I recognize they are busy, so this allows them a dedicated time to attend. They can choose not to, but it's a choice. They bring copies of drafts (electronic or paper) and I ask them what questions they have and how I can help. That's what we work on.
- Papers are due uploaded to Blackboard by midnight Friday. This allows them a day after conferencing to incorporate any notes.
- I grade all papers Saturday mornings. I then post general feedback to the whole class on improving writing in announcements.
This morning grading took longer than usual because I kept stopping to add general notes to Word's auto-correct and my feedback cheat sheet. I got the idea of using the Word auto-correct feature to give comments from here. I type in where appropriate, my short cut, say ROL: and the auto-correct fills in "This “sounds” awkward. Read it out loud, can you think of a different way to phrase this so what you’re trying to say is clear?"
One of my goals with feedback was to make sure too that I was asking guiding questions to get students to get there on their own, and think about their choices, and how to correct in the hope that this leads to a transfer of skills.
These short cuts aren't the only feedback I give, but I've noticed on lower level English classes (this is a 220 course) that there are a lot of the same, basic notes. So the short cut comments usually address these.
When students submit their work I ask them to write in the comment box what they thought they did well, what they struggled with, and what they think they need help with. I use this as a lens to give feedback as well, and not get comment happy.
At the end of each paper I write a few sentences about the essay as a whole.
The assignment guidelines were that students needed to choose a Paradise Lost inspired artifact (album cover, painting, sculpture, etc.) and analyze it. They also had to specifically use a close reading from Paradise Lost in that analysis. The students made great choices in their artifacts, some really neat stuff.
However, I've noticed that papers that require students to write their analysis/argument tend to be weak. They rely on plot summary or make a series of statements with little analysis. I think this is part of a larger issue of students not feeling as though their opinion is valued or important. I also think that this shows a weakness in critical thinking skills. Grades on these first assignments tend to be lower than the students would like. BUT my assignments are scaled, so the last assignments count more than the first, so if a student improves through the semester, then a poor grade at the beginning doesn't kill them.
Things this approach doesn't fix:
- I really wish there was a way to require students to read feedback before they could see their grades. I worry students look at the grade and never read the feedback, and that's part of the reason why I don't see an improvement form assignment to assignment.
- Generally, my students seem to see the value of attending office hours and sending me drafts after the first assignment. I wish I could get them to see that earlier.
- Students focusing more on grades than why they earned them.
I guess I'll have to wait and see if what I'm trying has the effects I want.
Have you had success in addressing these issues? What worked for you? Why do you think it worked?