Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reflections on Grading: Part One

As you may already know, Anne is finishing up her graduate school work and I am part of the project. She is looking at the “No D Policy” that I have written about before, but in her last cycle, the one we are in now, she is adding onto that with the idea of feedback to students. She had this idea of giving students two sets of feedback, one from her and one from me. I thought that sounded like a good idea, and together we even modified that to include a portion where she gives feedback and then I give feedback on the same paper, then we graduate to two copies and we both give feedback on our own copy and bring them together to discuss, and finally that I would give feedback and she would add on her own comments. This graduate school stuff, as much work as it is for her, is proving really beneficial to me and my learning as a student teacher. In what other way would I be able to form an agreement with her around mentoring or even learn, in this situation, what good, productive, and helpful feedback looks like? In other situations activities like this may happen, but I feel very fortunate as to have these activities happening to me during student teaching. Plus it gives Anne a little lab rat to test out her ideas on too.

Today we started the first part of this third cycle of learning. A few days ago I collected the introduction paragraphs from the students. She spent a night offering feedback on the introductions and then handed them off to me. I looked at the feedback and offered my own feedback at the bottom of the page. When we sat down to compare our notes and feedback I noticed a few different things. One, we both had similar markings, which is what I would like to see (at least that I am catching the main errors in student writing). Secondly, Anne likes to mark things on the side of the page with a little note beside it. I, however, tend to want to write a paragraph to students at the bottom of their paper. In fact, I frame my paragraph with a good comment at the top and some sort of suggestion to keep students’ learning increasing throughout the drafting and writing process. I really enjoyed seeing the different ways that we give feedback. Third, Anne tends to be very critical in her feedback, which is really good and I believe helpful in this situation. However, I had a hard time finding a positive comment. I really feel that students today need some sort of positive feedback to continue learning and know that they did something right at least. I do see Anne’s point in being very restrictive with the positive comments, because it takes more weight when a teacher writes “Good Job” on a paper every once in a while, as opposed to every time they receive a paper back.

To conclude, today’s exercise of walking through the papers and learning what Anne wrote, what I wrote the same, and then talking about that was really helpful. It has started to give me a much better idea of proper assessment and what that looks like in today’s world of education. I look forward to our next challenge and learning opportunity – the double blind experiment.