About three years ago, Kogut and I re-wrote an Algebra 1 project that happens at our school every year. (It’s called exhibition; the end-product includes students presenting their project to approximately 20 students and adults; it’s a long story; we’ll tell you more about it for sure sometime.) Basic background: our Algebra 1 exhibition involves students using linear regressions to analyze real data about worldwide or school issues. My senior math class (Advanced Mathematical Decision Making) exhibition involves a statistical analysis of data about a social issue (linked to the Civics class) and its prevalence in our school.
For several years, I’ve enjoyed the process of giving feedback on these projects. As a rule, I don’t grade the “first draft” of the math work, but rather solely give feedback in relation to the objectives. This feedback-giving barely feels like grading; rather, I get to look at students’ thinking without immediately evaluating it. I get to enjoy the hard work students have done and then offer suggestions for improvement and point out where students’ have skimped on certain parts. Students then have the opportunity to revise before I finally do evaluate their mastery of the objectives.
What I’ve noticed is that students do not miss the grade at all, but rather appreciate that I actually paid close attention to their work. This year, when I gave the seniors back their first drafts, only one person in the entire class asked about a grade. Everyone else (and that student too, once I explained) just started revising their work. The results were almost entirely high quality, and the process felt real, respectful, and meaningful. I look forward to shifting my classroom so that most of the work involves this process of genuine feedback and revision, and to including students as important feedback-givers.