John Hendron wrote a blog post about feedback and thought it was important enough to email the link to teachers. As we move towards a 1:1 environment with a project-based instructional focus, feedback becomes more and more important. Projects can go on much longer, and it is important to help students stay on track.
It is not always easy to give feedback to students. When I work with teachers, and when I lead PD sessions, I stress the importance of timely feedback. As John says in his blog post, giving the feedback at the right time is very important. Too early and it gets lost in the shuffle, and too late and the student has no time for course correction. You could argue, of course, that grades are feedback. But how effective are they? A single letter or number after weeks of work does not give enough guidance to improve performance. And, usually, once grades are assigned, students can’t improve on the work they have turned in. This is very discouraging to some.
When planning a project, find natural break points in the process where students stop and take stock of their progress. Sometimes this is easy. If students are writing a paper, a good stopping point would be the completion of an outline or a list of sources. Even if you had not originally planned on grading individual parts of the project, make time to give feedback at an early deadline. Students who might feel overwhelmed by a big project will find smaller tasks completed in sequence much more manageable.
Giving feedback throughout the course of a project can be very cumbersome, but we have lots of tools that can help. Two in particular are very well suited to our technology-rich environment.
Google Drive and Teacher Dashboard: Get your students in the habit of creating documents and uploading files to Google, then sharing with you by storing everything in its corresponding class folder. If you are still scrolling through lists of shared documents from your students, please let me know ASAP! Teacher Dashboard is the best way to view student work. Once you have access to student files, you can give feedback by adding comments, and you can track student progress from the very beginning. There is no need to print, collect, handwrite comments, and return. Even better, you can create a list of commonly-used comments and come up with abbreviations.
Edmodo: If you have not used Edmodo yet, please consider giving it a try. This is a great place to work with small groups within your classes. It is also a great place to give feedback for projects that are not text-based. It also allows for extensive dialogue between group members and teachers. Sometimes students just need to know that someone is aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it.
But you have over a hundred students! How will you manage? You know your students. You know who needs more support, who can fly solo for a bit, and who needs just a word of encouragement to keep up the good work. Make your call. Technology allows you to differentiate your content AND your feedback. Make the most of it.