Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 22 and the Cool Sites series
In the former school I taught at some of the students rallied together and complained to the principal about the previous teacher. The instructor thought it was because of the low grades they received in the class. When I was receiving the same group of students the following year I was really nervous. I was extremely shocked when the students thanked me. They said they really appreciated that I just didn’t give them their grades, but explained why I took points off. They stated this was the main reason they had complained about the last teacher, because the students were never told how to receive an A or B. They were just given a grade and expected to accept this grade with no questions asked.
This experience made me reflect on my grading practices. I wondered how I had learned to grade the way I do. See, not only do I take the time to make notes of the grade, I also write goals to achieve for the next assignment. Moreover, I provide checklists and rubrics with my expectations. If the students meet these expectations, then they receive the grade. I learned to do this from some of my favorite college instructors. They always provided the students with clear guidelines and commented on why points were taken off. However, I only remember a few instructors doing this. When completing my Masters I realized only a few instructors provided constructive feedback.
Why do only a few instructors provide constructive feedback?
I believe this is due to two main reasons. First, many instructors probably do not realize what constructive feedback looks like. I believe constructive feedback is:
- specific- the student knows exactly what you thought was positive and what needed improvement.
- private- make sure the other students do not know who made the worst grades.
- immediate- provide the feedback as soon as possible when the assignment is still in the student’s mind.
- helpful- We want students to strive to improve and to learn. If we are consistently pointing out the negative, then the student may give up or not try at all. Every student has something good about their work, even if it is the lowest performance. Perhaps, the student has never been given a shot at excelling. I have been given work I felt the student did not try at all. However, in my mind I try to remember that telling the student this or having a negative attitude with the student is definitely not going to accomplish anything. Instead, I rather encourage them to do their best in their next assignment and reassure them that I believe they have the ability to do some great work.
- open to discussion- I allow my students to approach me about their grades. However, I preface this by saying they must give me specific reasons for wanting the grade change and present a good case. I also set aside meeting times for this take place.
- goal-oriented- We should aim for our students to improve. We can do this by telling them what they should aim to improve and focus on the improvement instead of what they missed. Focusing on goals is motivational, while a focus on mistakes makes the student feel bad about themselves. This can be avoided by not marking everything in red.
Second, many instructors probably do not have the time to give constructive feedback. I remember spending hours on grading. I understand the complaints. However, with a variety of free online tools, many instructors can cut down on their grading time in order to have more time to provide constructive feedback. My long-term goal is to begin using these resources more often and cut down on the amount of time I spend grading. For the short-term goal, I just want you to reflect on how these tools might help you provide constructive feedback.
- Brain Honey- Free online curriculum mapping. I love this website for many reasons. This is more than a grade book and curriculum planner. Easily drag and drop your state standards to assignments. They’re already on the database. You can also find free lessons to match those state standards. Students have access to their grades. Additionally, the website highlights those students who did not achieve certain standards or are in danger of failing. This way you can let parents and students know as soon as possible.
- Engrade- Free online grader/ teacher website. If your school does not have an online grading book, then check out this tool which allows teachers to enter assignments, attendance, and grades. Parents and students can check these reports with a special code. Many other advanced tools include the ability to print a student grade book and individual progress reports, email parents easily, and more!
- Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators- Over 100 different resources and tools for traditional and alternative assessments. Tools include several rubric templates, rubric builders, electronic portfolio tools, and report card and progress report comment help for any grade level in any subject.
- Rubrics for Assessment- 100s of rubrics for all grade levels, several projects, and web 2.0 projects. Use these as a template and get your students involved in creating the rubrics for more success.
- Digitales Digital Media Scoring Guides- Simply check the type of digital project you need a rubric for. Then, click on each of the scoring guide’s keywords for detailed descriptors.
- Spell Check Online- Fantastic free tool that requires no download or registration. Copy and paste text into the window and this service will highlight questionable spelling and grammar. An explanation is given as well as ways to fix the problem. This tool supports over 15 different languages including 3 variants of English.
- Whitesmoke Writing Assistant- Free online spell checker for those with dyslexia, but useful for all students. Enter text, up to 1000 characters, and this tool marks incorrectly spelled words in red, and correctly spelled words used in the wrong context in blue. Right-click on the marked words for a list of possible replacements.
- Viper- Free plagiarism checker for essays. Just run student essays through this software. Save more time by having your students scan their essays and send you a copy that shows they passed the plagiarism test. This only works for Windows.
Helpful articles about grading:
- Russell Stannard’s approach to constructive feedback by recording the grading process and sending the video to students to correct their own errors.
- Sean Banville’s series on using audio files to provide feedback.
- How to Crowdsource Grading- See how one professor has her students grade the work and provide feedback.
- Transformed Gradebook- project on replacing traditional grade books with a harvesting grade book.
Test out one of these tools to see how you can use it decrease the amount of time you spend grading.
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This is goal 22 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please read this post!
Don’t forget to leave a comment that you accomplished this goal using the hashtag #30Goals!
What do you think constructive feedback looks like?