Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grading as teaching

In previous posts, I've shared several ideas for making grading of and feedback on assignments more helpful to students. This time, I want to share what may be a new way for you to think about the whole process of grading and providing feedback— It's part of the teaching and learning process!

I think we all know that correcting errors in student assignments is a form of teaching. As a published author, I encourage my reviewers and editors to be thorough so that I can learn where my weaknesses as an author are — and how to become better. I tell them that I view them as my teachers…my mentors in my lifelong quest to be a better writer.  So—yes—correcting a student’s mistakes is a form of teaching.

When providing feedback on a particular assignment to my students through electronic media, I usually start with a template. I paste that template into the LMS feedback window of each individual's assignment.

The template begins with a rubric, as I explained previously in my article Precision feedback.

I then follow with a paragraph or two or three that briefly outline some general advice or concept of which I’d like my student to take heed.  For example:
  • How to plan this type of project more efficiently.
  • Common pitfalls to avoid.
  • How to proofread their work before submitting.
  • Why certain formats help the reader avoid confusion.
  • Shortcuts and tips for future work.
I keep my list of templates all in one document file.  This way, I can easily plan out which “big idea” I want to share in the form of “personal mentoring” during grading in each module.  I often refer to “my previous comments” on a topic, upon which I build themes as students progress through course modules.

These little gems are things I’ve learned along the way and want my students to learn, too.  Some of these will go unheard or ignored if I present them in a list or in the syllabus or in the course outline.  But when included in one-on-one feedback—a personal message—I find that such advice is more welcome and more thoughtfully processed by students.

I tweak the wording of the template if needed, then add personalized feedback that relates to the particulars of the submitted work.  This process can be sped up using the tips outlined in my previous post Speed up your feedback.

When I encounter specific errors and issues, I can paste in one of my prepared list of snippets that fully explain the error and how to avoid it in the future—a process outlined in my previous article Precision feedback.

I find that my students begin to look forward to the comments and advice that I include in their grading feedback.  In fact, many of them email or message me to begin a brief dialog about some idea or suggestion that was included in the feedback template.  Dialog that would not have otherwise happened.
With very little extra effort, I can give students more
  • General advice
  • Mentoring
  • Specific corrections
  • Personal advice
  • Opportunities for student-teacher dialog
Thus, I have come to see grading online projects and assignments as more formative in nature than I had previously.  I now recognize grading as a personal teaching/learning experience.

Want to know more?

My article on using voice recognition software to speed up your feedback to students:
Speed up your feedback
A previous article on using rubrics to make your feedback faster and more precise:
Precision feedback
An introduction to formative assessment and how to embed it into your teaching:
Embedded formative assessment
Photo credit: lsiryan