Effective Feedback–OLC Workshop

Today is catch-up day: posting about all I’ve been learning since the beginning of July in my Online Learning Consortium course and workshops! I just finished the Effective Feedback workshop today. In case you think I’m crazy to be taking workshops while taking the certification course, I sensed that I really needed the knowledge from the workshops I chose in order to move forward, and while it has made it a hectic summer of online work, it has been refreshing as well getting so many new ideas.

So for my Effective Feedback workshop I had another “ah-ha!” moment, though it didn’t actually come from the class, but I’m going to mention it anyways because I wouldn’t have had this moment if I hadn’t been taking these classes.

My husband was giving me a book report on “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students.” by Susan M. Brookhart (something we trade off doing–reading books and sharing about them). He mentioned that giving feedback on grammar and mechanics is not highly effective feedback and can actually be detrimental to the learning process. I’ve taught English and writing courses and know all those rules for writing, and I’m a detail-oriented person. But when he said that a lightbulb went on in my head and I said, “I’m done counting grammar errors and nitpicking my students’ papers.” That ties right in with the Workload Management workshop as I have spent so much time catching grammar errors and marking students down for them. But as a student in these workshops, not once was grammar mentioned, and I would have been annoyed if my typo or two that slipped through knocked me down a grade. These are adult learners, and while there are students who need some serious help with their writing, I can work with them (the one or two per class usually) without burning myself out and annoying students with attention to writing form. Once I made this decision I was so excited!! I feel like it is one of the most freeing things I have done in my online teaching in years. If I hadn’t just taken the Workload Management course I don’t think this would have registered with me.

Some other ideas I gained from this workshop:

  • Engage students in the feedback loop:  Ask students what they would like feedback on in their assignment or what areas were the most challenging for them. This could also be added in a justification paragraph at the end of the paper: “What part of the process did you have the most difficulty with? Why did you do what you did?”
  • Utilize “colorful comments” (see article “Colorful Revision: Color Coded Comments Connected to Revision” by Nancy Mack):  This involves marking student papers with different colors for good comments, slight conceptual errors, major conceptual errors and proofreading, each represented by a different color. This visual allows a stronger feedback piece to students, so they can see more easily what sort of writing is effective and what is not. Comments are added by the instructor in-line right after the color (not using the call-out boxes). I think the color coding can help me give better feedback as well since I can see at a glance what areas of a paper needs attention.
  • I am also going to utilize a better organization for my “stock comments” that I give students. I already do this, but it is messy and not labeled by the assignment or week, so I have to scroll through it to find the comments from previous semesters on a particular topic. Just labeling the stock comments with the assignment name will allow me to find it quickly and it will be more likely I will use it.

This is an area I will need to revisit as there was a lot of discussion between the difference between advice and feedback, the need to not make value judgments, etc. As I get into the feedback mode of the semester I will go back to some of the sources offered in this course and tweak my wording to make my feedback more effective.

Of course, improving my rubrics will improve my ability to give better feedback. That was part of my certification class, but there is significant overlap between these workshops as you can rarely take just one element of teaching online in isolation.

I just keep adding these ideas to my “do list” for my course–things to do, things to consider doing, things to keep in mind, resources to check out and questions (Here I come, Heather I and Heather II, my mentor and instructional designer!).

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