You burn the midnight oil, staying up late to grade and make thoughtful comments on students’ papers.
After entering the grades into your grade book, you breathe a sigh of relief and feel good about your accomplishment.
When you return the papers to the students, they immediately look at their grades. Some complain. Others act nonchalant. Others immediately begin to compare with their classmates. Most frustratingly, a couple crumple up their papers and throw them away. Few, if any, take the time to read your comments—the comments that you spent hours working on.
So why did you spend hours writing the comments? Because you know feedback ranks as one of the most effective and influential teaching practices (Dweck, Hattie, Marzano, et al).
But did you know ineffective feedback can actually reduce student motivation? Psychologist Edward Deci found that when students feel they are being too closely monitored, they can become disengaged from learning. Furthermore, Deci discovered that learners often interpret feedback as an attempt to control them (grading as a method of control or statements like, “You cannot do that.”) Finally, Deci discovered a third condition of ineffective feedback occurs when it can be used for competition (I did better than you did).
Comments only grading maximizes the positive effects of feedback by spurring student learning and instilling a growth mindset. In comments only grading, the teacher provides only comments on student work. By writing comments only, students learn how to improve their work.
For assignments that required a grade, I employed a simple, yet remarkably effective strategy. I returned the assignment with comments, but no grade. I required the students to read my comments and respond to them (either orally or written depending on the situation). Only then would I provide them with the grade. While it took students a while to get used to this system, they soon grew to appreciate the true meaning of my comments/feedback.
Some feedback tips:
1. comments must be specific
2. supply information about what the learner is doing
3. allow students time to read and respond to the comments
4. allow time for improvement
5. praise effort NOT intelligence
6. supply information