Communicate: Evaluation Methods and Communication Practices Quest

posted May 19, 2016, 9:53 AM by Emily Kroutil
Students like getting feedback on their work.  While completing this course, I enjoy getting feedback from the verifiers.  It lets me know that I'm doing things correctly and that I'm on the right track.  As a teacher, I enjoy getting specific feedback from my administrators when they evaluate me.  When someone simply writes "good job" or "excellent work" on my evaluations, I feel as though I've been jipped out of something when I get nonspecific feedback like this.  Like, I did all this work to submit something that I think is really excellent or worked so hard teaching my students all year and this is all you can muster?!?  It's insulting.

Students feel the same way.  They like knowing that you actually took the time to read their work and look at it closely.  A few students might appreciate a quick glance because they know they didn't work very hard on the assignment or they turned in something subpar, but most of the time, students really do enjoy getting feedback.  If they aren't given feedback, they don't know what they are doing wrong, what they are doing right, and where they should improve.

This is especially important in the online environment.  Because you are not physically with the students, you don't get the chance to say off the cuff things like, "I knew you had it in you!" or "You are getting so good at such and such."  If you are going to give feedback to your students, you have to make an effort to do so; something that is worth every minute it takes.  If students are participating in a discussion, it is important to be active in the discussion as well so they know that you are actively involved in the discussion and that you care about what they say.  When my students share their findings on current event articles in my AP Environmental Science class, I try to have a question or a comment about the article for each of them.  I want them to know that I truly do care about the work they did and that I appreciate them sharing their findings.

Authentic feedback is feedback that has some worth to it.  It is specific and tries to help the student improve.  When grading FRQ essays for my AP Environmental Science students, I ask questions and provide detailed notes about why they lost points on something.  If they did really well on something, I note that as well.  Then, I write them a little note about how I think they're progressing on their FRQs and how this batch of FRQs looked as a whole.  It is important to me that they know that I thoroughly read their FRQs and WANT them to do well.  If I didn't care, I would just mark them up, forego the comments, and quickly be done with that task.  But giving them specific feedback is important because I want them to improve and they NEED to improve to do well on the AP exam.  Most students in my AP class have never written scientifically.  In the beginning, they try to provide opinions and write about their feelings, which is inappropriate in scientific writing.  It takes a lot of very specific feedback to mold them into good science writers.  This type of specific and authentic feedback is especially important for students that only interact with their teacher online.  Without this feedback, they have no idea how they are doing in the course besides the numerical grade.  And like I said before, it is frustrating to work really hard on something and get no feedback whatsoever.  When a paper is "handed back" online, there is no opportunity to say a quick, "I really enjoyed the part about blah blah."  So, it is important to have detailed and specific feedback in your notes to the student when the work is returned.

I've taken online courses before that required a variety of assignments.  I completed them quickly and easily (or with difficulty and consuming quite a bit of my time).  The instructor just posted the assignments and we were able to work through them at whatever pace we liked, with a few deadlines interspersed in between.  For some of them, I was able to complete the quizzes with little effort, write a few papers, and maybe create a lesson plan or two.  Then, I submitted these assignments to the instructor and received a numerical grade and that was that.  The course was completed, but I retained little.  I received little to no feedback from the instructor except in the form of a grade.  It was nice because I could check off a box that I had completed that task, but the experience wasn't a very pleasant one.  It wasn't a very negative one either - just kind of indifferent.  Interaction with the instructor could have made the experience more positive.  I hope, even though my virtual school course will be completely online, that I can establish relationships with my students, give them feedback that shows them that I care about their learning, and help them have a positive experience with their online science course.