My latest #gradhacker posts: student feedback

So, I started thinking I should post here a little bit about what I am posting over at the ol’ Gradhacker.

On Friday, I took on the idea of how technology might facilitate the giving of student feedback:


As a former High School English teacher, I have experienced the overwhelming tsunami of having to provide feedback on a weekly basis to ~150 students. Between that experience and my more recent experiences teaching online students, I’ve thought a lot about providing feedback on student writing and student products.

Before we jump in to resources and tips, I want to make one thing abundantly clear. Providing feedback is not the same as a giving a grade. I subscribe to the Dr. Jeff Grabill school of thinking on this who responded to me once in this way: “Grading is too late for revision feedback.”  So what I mean when I say feedback is that an instructor or peer provides information to the student about the student’s product in a manner that allows the student to then revise the product for the better. So what are some ways to manage the time-consuming task of giving students opportunities to receive feedback?

And today, my former student Nick Sproull, posted on his experience as a student (getting feedback in the course I TA’d for! How fun!):

In early May, my wife, our two small children and I will pack up our serendipitously named 2003 Honda Odyssey and travel 262 miles from our home near Indianapolis to the campus of Michigan State University. There I will proudly don my newest prized possession: my master’s hood. However, unlike many others who will also walk through such a ceremony this spring, this trip is different in that it will be just my third time on campus as 100% of my degree has been completed online.

Some have asked why I would go to the trouble of sitting in a hot gymnasium for two hours only receive a fake diploma. It is a fair question. In part, I want to chronicle the event for my children so that they can see that Daddy likes to learn. But more importantly, and surprising to those who have asked, I feel impelled to take part in the ceremony because I am eager to meet in person the professors with whom I have connected with so well online.

I was so excited to help Nick make his Gradhacker debut. :)
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  1. Andrea,

    Your point that feedback is different than grades is huge. It’s not just that grades are too late, as Dr Grabill says, it’s that they are often not helpful in the learning process because they are simply too crude.

    The analogy I use is this: If you are learning a piece on the piano, when you finish playing it for your teacher, it doesn’t do much good to have it rated as a C+ or a 73. Even learning that you missed 14 notes isn’t very helpful. Meanwhile, if you get D or an F, you might become so discouraged that you give up practicing altogether. For all too many K12 students, that’s exactly what happens.

    Feedback, on the other hand, helps you steer the learning process. If the teacher says, “You need to practice this particular phrase and pay close attention to these triplets because you’re missing the rhythm”, she has helped you focus on the specifics of what you need to master and the learning process has been enhanced. In my experience, grades rarely do that.

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