I am taking part in a “Talking Teaching and Learning” group, and my homework this week was to think about the last few details of my new assessment structure for Euclidean Geometry. In particular, how will I handle the “regular, daily feedback” part of the process?
So, if I am to provide regular feedback to my students at “assessment opportunities” they take, how shall I do it? I want this to be meaningful and effective. And it would be nice if it didn’t consume my working time.
I think I will try a format beloved by politicians: I will ask and answer my own questions. If any of you wishes to play investigative journalist and ask other questions that I should be forced to answer, go hit the comment box. I would like to play.
What counts as an assessment opportunity?
Any student presentation, meaningful engagement in class discussion, a discussion with me outside of class where I learn something. Those things count as opportunities for me to assess student performance that don’t necessarily have written feedback attached to them. In each case there is plenty of verbal feedback from classmates–but I don’t always participate. In fact, I prefer to leave it to the students.
Why are written papers not on this list?
Students will get feedback in the form of a referee report on each paper. I am not as concerned about providing more structured feedback here because I feel it is adequately covered.
Why do you prefer to leave the process of verbal feedback to the students?
One of the skills I am trying to encourage is the ability to evaluate arguments critically and thoughtfully.
If there is a reason to leave the verbal feedback to the students, might written feedback from the instructor corrupt this process?
Oh, yes. That is my main worry.
How can you avoid this trouble?
um. uh. [blink. blink.]
I hope this writing will spur me to some ideas about that…
What are the goals for this written feedback?
I want to focus student attention on some aspects of what they did. Ideally, quality feedback should help speed up a student’s process of improvement by directing his or her attention to something concrete.
What kind of constraints are you going to impose upon yourself?
I am a constructivist at heart. The student must come to grips with the material and how to do it. Each one should do this on his or her own terms. One idea would be to give feedback by asking questions.
I am just not sure what kinds of questions I would ask that are detached from the process of running a class meeting. We handle lots of things in class, and I almost always do it by asking questions. Maybe I will just reiterate some of the unanswered questions. That doesn’t feel like a very good answer.
Another idea is to use a sandwich approach: mention something positive, make a suggestion for improvement, reiterate the positive outcomes. And be relentlessly optimistic.
Now I’ve run out of questions. So.
I think whatever I do will have to play to my strengths. I am at my best when I split my time as a cheerleader, mentor, and coach. Students are capable of amazing things, and sometimes they just need for me to believe in them and expect it out of them. Sometimes they just need a little bit of commiserating about how frustrating it is to do mathematics. Sometimes they need a concrete suggestion of what to do when they are stuck and at their wit’s end.
That was unsatisfying.
Here we are. 500+ words in, and no answers I feel wonderful about.
Never mind, time for some unbridled confidence.
When I got into IBL teaching, I recognized that a major asset I had was hubris. I just believed that I could do this. Usually it works.
What? So I will have to help each student in as individual a way as possible, thinking on
my feet and being careful about everyone’s feelings? Why should I worry? I can do that.
I’ll think about this some more, and just try to roll with it.
I don’t feel like I finished my homework.