Feedback!

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.

SL

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4 thoughts on “Feedback!

  1. I don’t grade individual products anymore. They are either done, or not done yet. For papers, “done” is based on a fairly lengthy rubric. For skills checks, it’s pretty much just can they correctly do and explain an example. For presentations, the class generally decides if the presentation is correct or not. (I often have to jump in here when the whole class misses some big error, but that’s a whole discussion in itself). Grades are computed based on how many things students get done. Shawn Cornally (thinkthankthunk.com), SBG champion, has switched to binary grading of standards as well. Result: every discussion is formative. It’s so much more fun.

  2. I want to talk more about this with you! This sounds like how some of our science teachers do SBG. Right now, Kogut and I track ~18 content skills plus overall problem solving skills over the course of the year. It’s not binary but not that far (1, 2, 3, 4 with 1-2 not meeting and 3-4 meeting standards).

  3. Sometimes I feel that for big things we shouldn’t give any sort of grade (and only comments and feedback) until the student revises the work. At an institute I went to the summer of 2009, at Eagle Hill, they explained that’s how they assessed chunks of their assessments. For example, on a test, there would be a major writing prompt that would not be assessed until there was some sort of revision but the short answer and multiple-choice questions would be assessed first round.but open to reassessment. In order for this to work, we would need to create and maintain a stronger culture of revision as a critical and most important part of the learning and mastering process.

  4. I think if we switch to doing bigger/longer problems and have the feedback/revision as part of class rather than outside, then the culture of revision will change.

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