Thursday, July 11, 2013

Comment Only "Grading"


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

8 comments:

Joy Kirr said...

Thanks for this post! Have you read Role Reversal by Mark Barnes yet? He goes one step further - having students come up with their OWN grades. He gives feedback, and at the end of the quarter, they look through all of it and give themselves a final grade... Could separate these out by standard, I suppose. I like this format, however, since I'm not quite at the point where I can hand over grading to the students - but only because I didn't clear it with my administration before parent night! Some day... some day... Thanks again for this post!!

Denise Krebs said...

Nice, Reed! Thanks for sharing the research by names I'm growing to trust. I appreciate the simplicity of this design. So true that once you put that grade on the paper, that's all most kids look at. I am definitely bookmarking this page and using this method when I meet my new class!

Sincerely,
Denise

JGray said...

We have started this last year in the high school part of our school. The kids did take a bit to get readjusted to how we are giving back teachers feedback, but they have bought into what we are doing and we have seen that assessments that are handed in now are better overall.
By doing this it has made feedback mean more from the teacher to the student, even the “I did better than you” has stopped. The students are more focused on how they are doing and improving then what their peers are doing.

Janet Abercrombie said...

Comments can be even more powerful when you have students reflect on the comments. I used to give students time to read over comments, discuss the comments with peers of their choice and/or reflect in writing.

I'd ask them to discuss the comments based on...
- what they understood
- what they wondered
- what they might change (I allowed resubmissions)
- implications for future assignments

Worth a try :). Keeps students from glancing at comments and then disposing of the work.

Janet | expateducator.com

Demetrius Ball said...

This sounds like a great way to make sure students focus on the feedback. How much time do you spend with each student discussing their assignments? Are the other students working independently while you conduct the discussions? Thank you.

sarah lee said...

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#reflect
www.matreyastudios.com

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