Monday, July 11, 2011

Hand in hand?: The relationship between feedback and score

I have found that the most effective feedback does not always include a score with explanation of student progress. Here is a story from an undergraduate Philosophy course I took.

Writing in Philosophy, as a freshman in college, was a daunting task. Not only wrapping our heads around the ideas themselves, our class struggled with how to frame them in the format of the discipline. Our teacher, Professor Woody, was in his last of many many years of teaching and had teaching philosophical writing down to a psychological science. We would submit a paper, and start waiting.

When we received our papers back, they came with an attached form of sorts. Typed on what appeared to be an old school word processor, there were two columns of common comments, which he would check accordingly, and a paragraph of feedback. So on mine he would check ‘passive voice’ and ‘comma splices’ and then write a paragraph addressing the ideas of the paper. There was no grade. We would trade comments with each other, guessing at what the grade would be, repeatedly analyzing the comments and feedback. Then, at the same time he gave the next writing assignment, he would give our grades, ensuring that we had the score and explanation fresh in our minds.

While agonizing over the feedback was bad for my stress level, it was the first time I paid such minute attention to what a teacher said instead of how they graded me. Now, as a teacher, I cannot stand it when a student flips past all my pages of comments to see what the grade is, then immediately puts away the paper.

I’m seriously considering a Professor Woody staggered system of feedback and score... any name suggestions?

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