RADIO SHOW/AUDIO PODCAST
Solutions...with Courtney Anderson! (SwCA)
Episode 163 -
Originally aired 8/7/2014 9:00 AM -
EDUCATORS’ EDEN series -
“Grading Feedback...How Much Is Too Much?"
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TALK SHOW EPISODE NOTES
This episode is part of our EDUCATORS’ EDEN™ series wherein we explore the paradise that the most passionate, creative and committed educators create for themselves, their students, peers, administrations and institutions!
“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” - Socrates.
This series acknowledges the power of education! Those fortunate enough to be educators share knowledge to ensure that their love of learning is able to flourish and thrive in a version of eden! Teaching (any students, in any format, in any setting) is honorable and one of the most special endeavors that humans engage in. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela
Our show topic is, “Grading Feedback...How Much Is Too Much?"
I really enjoy grading student submissions! Yes, I honestly look forward to the student grading process. Not all educators always feel the same way!
“So we stay up late. And, then, all too often, students ignore our efforts. First, they turn the pages to check the grade, and, then, maybe glance at the copious notes we labored so long and late to produce. Unfortunately, all too often we find that students don’t use our feedback. We wonder if all that time spent giving it was really worth the effort. What can we do to shorten grading time and give feedback that students will read and use? Rubrics, an assessment tool, are one solution. They cut grading time in half, and they communicate our expectations in writing well before students start the assignment.” (http://www.nea.org/home/34447.htm)
Grading student submissions is one of the most fascinating aspects of teaching! We just have to prepare and plan ahead for it to be fun! Having the opportunity to access the student submissions where they share their innermost thoughts, their analysis, and their unique worldview is a privilege. The entire process of disseminating information to several students at the same time and in the same manner (via in class lecture in a physical classroom, via releasing an audio lecture in an online classroom, etc.) and then having the ability to observe how different students accessed that information and interpreted it is exciting. It is like going to see a movie with a group of friends and then discussing it afterwards and finding out how differently we all experienced the same content. There are times when it will seem like we didn’t even see the same film! The way we all interpret information is related to our individual experiences, our existing knowledge base, our interests, our biases, and a range of other factors.
It is the same exploration of how we and other people process the world when I have the opportunity to grade student submissions. We all have been in the same class with the same information yet that shared experience is filtered through the lens of each scholars’ unique combination of factors that make them an individual. There are times when I grade work and I learn that I need to address enhancement of, or replacement of, a particular issue that was not conveyed effectively to a large portion of the group. At other times I will ask myself if we all were in the same class (based on the different interpretations of the content and assignment parameters). Some students have heightened attention to the smallest details and will address items that I did not even note when preparing the lesson and/ or assessment. There are other times when students do not read the assigned material, assignment instructions, syllabus and/ or other mandatory material and that omission will result in them not completing the required tasks. That is their choice and it is insightful to access what actions the student decided to take (or not to take).
Grading permits me to gain individual data about how each student learns, what their interests are, where their skill weaknesses exist and what strengths and mastery they already possess. It also permits me to obtain group data regarding the course content (where the group had similar challenges is often an indicator of the need for additional improvement of that specific content delivery process). I also learn new ways of interpreting the material myself, which is a delight!
The reality is that all of our enthusiasm for teaching in general and for grading specifically may result in us providing inappropriate and excessive feedback to our students. This may happen because we:
1) Want to do everything in our power to ensure that the students are as eager and enthusiastic about the subject matter as we are.
2) We fear that our students will not access all of our content so we think that if a little feedback is good, more feedback is better.
We must be aware of the following:
As per #1 above) We are verbose and enthralled by the subject by virtue of being such a “superfan” of our course content that we have devoted our professional lives to teaching it. Our students are not all going to be that devoted to the course material. That is why they are students and not the instructors. We should not make it our goal (or wish) to convert our students into the same level of enthusiasts that we personally are. This is not realistic and may result in excessive grading feedback.
As per #2 above) Too much is too much. If the grading feedback exceeds the size of the assignment itself, that is an indicator that we have excessive grading feedback. Thus, a student writing assignment that was 2,500 words in length should not have 5,000+ words of feedback (in most instances, yet there will of course will be exceptional content where this rule of thumb does not apply).
I also must mention the quest for perfection issue that has impacted some educators and resulted in excessive grading feedback for some students (and delayed grading feedback for the class overall). Some educators attempt to create ‘perfect’ feedback and so they create voluminous grading feedback for the first few student assignments that they grade. They then realize that they have 30 total assignments to grade and they have completed three grades with feedback that took several hours for each student. The challenge is that they are already behind their grading calendar schedule. They become overwhelmed about the 27 remaining assignments and do not believe that they will able to complete a comparable amount of several hours per student grading feedback (as per the already completed grading for the first three students). Then, they shut down. They stop grading for a while to “take a break” and before they know it, days, weeks and even months have gone by.
Remember that students have a need for timely feedback. You must prioritize your grading feedback to be timely. You also have to be realistic. Perfection does not exist. The goal is to balance the size of the class with the intention to help the students succeed with timely and reasonable feedback. Students who still need additional assistance should have an option to have an individual session with you (during office hours or some other agreed to time) to go over their work in detail together (in person or via phone or internet chat). Therefore, the grading feedback is the executive summary (or Cliff’s Notes version) of the issues in the student submission. It is not a comprehensive and exhaustive analysis of every issue that could be addressed.
Using rubrics is strongly encouraged as it will help you provide a standard assessment of the primary elements of the assignment (as a starting point for your grading or as the entire grading feedback). You may augment a rubric with additional written, audio or video feedback notes. Or, the completed rubric may be sufficient feedback for the nature of the specific assignment. I use audio notes to augment the written rubric for substantive assignments (papers, exams) and just the rubric for smaller assignments (homework, discussions, presentations, etc.).
We must be timely for our students with our feedback so that they are able to use it to improve their work. Set a time schedule for returning the grading and stick to it. Plan ahead by allotting a preset time estimate for completion of each individual deliverable (e.g., 30 students at 30 minutes each = 900 minutes/ 15 hours, over five days = 3 hours per day). We are professionals and we must manage our work as any other professional would. We are responsible for ensuring that our students receive timely grading feedback that they are able to use for their subsequent assignments and/ or courses.
We are not alone in our passion for teaching! Here is part of an email that an educator sent to his students that went viral on the internet:
“It’s a privilege to be your professor. [..]
In order for you to navigate the increasing complexity of the 21st century you need a world-class education, and thankfully you have an opportunity to get one. I don’t just mean the education you get in class, but I mean the education you get in everything you do, every book you read, every conversation you have, every thought you think.
You need to optimize your life for learning.
You need to live and breath your education.
You need to be *obsessed* with your education.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because you are surrounded by so many dazzlingly smart fellow students that means you’re no good. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And do not fall into the trap of thinking that you focusing on your education is a selfish thing. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s the most noble thing you could do.
Society is investing in you so that you can help solve the many challenges we are going to face in the coming decades, from profound technological challenges to helping people with the age old search for human happiness and meaning.
That is why I am not canceling class tomorrow. Your education is really really important, not just to you, but in a far broader and wider reaching way than I think any of you have yet to fully appreciate. “
Don’t you feel excited to be an educator? I do! We are so fortunate!
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