As promised in the previous post about the auto-bots (Bots and Other Automated Feedback: Clippy's Revenge), I wanted to say something about an exciting new feedback thing I am doing right now in my classes: brainstorming with the students about how to help them do a better job with feedback. I'll have more to say about this when I get input from more students, but just based on the 20 responses I've gotten so far to my survey, I am feeling so much more confident about designing some really good experiments to try for next year. In this post, I'll share the questions I am asking the students, and then provide a little context about how this works in my classes.
Google Form. As part of their regular weekly feedback assignment, I've asked students to fill out this Google Form; it's public, so feel free to click and page through it. There are three sections:
Feedback Gallery: I am asking the students to share with me two examples of really useful feedback they received from other students, and two examples of not-useful feedback. That way I can create a gallery of examples to share with future students; there are a lot of students who learn best from seeing actual examples that come from actual students. I think this Gallery is going to be a big help in addition to the other materials I use to help students practice and improve their feedback skills (on that, see below).
Assess the semester: I'm asking the students to rate the quality of the feedback they are both giving and receiving (both from other students and from me), and asking for suggestions about how I can do a better job of providing feedback.
Help me to brainstorm: This is the exciting part! I brainstormed a whole bunch of ideas (some of which I am more enthusiastic about than others, of course)... and I'm asking the students to let me know which possibilities really appeal and also the ones that strongly do NOT appeal, plus getting more suggestions from them. And I'm getting some really good suggestions so far! That means I can start off the summer with a ton of ideas, some sense of student interest, in order to come up with some changes to the feedback process next year.
So, I'll report back on all of that later, but I was so encouraged when I took a look at the first batch of student responses; there will be a lot more responses tonight, plus I hope to pick up some more responses when I write to the students who are already done with the class, asking them to do me a favor and fill out the Form. I've got 90 students in my classes, so that is a lot of input... and I need some help because this is a really big challenge in course design, and I want to make good choices for my new efforts next year.
Some quick context: every week students comment on each other's blogs in a way that is mostly social, and they also do substantive comments on each other's Projects each week. Because they are working on the Projects all semester long (revising, adding new material, revising), the feedback is really important: comments from their readers are a big part of figuring out what to work on as they revise.
For many students, providing feedback is really difficult. They often have little or no experience in doing that; they might be feeling very unconfident themselves as writers; there are lots of emotional undercurrents in both giving and receiving feedback, etc. etc. I know how hard it is because I have been working literally for years on improving the feedback that I give to students: it's my full-time job, and I'm still learning!
Right now, the main way I've been trying to help students with feedback is by modeling (they are getting feedback from me every week), and also by providing three weeks of preparatory materials where they learn about both getting feedback (here's that assignment) and giving feedback (here's that assignment), along with a few specific strategies to practice (here's that assignment). Because I situate feedback in the context of growth mindset, they also get reinforcement from the growth mindset materials in class... like the feedback cats!
So, that has all been good, but I know I need to do more... and I need the students' help to figure that out. I will report back later on what I learn and on my new feedback experiments as I prepare them this summer. :-)