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How listening transforms my feedback

September 10, 2011

I keep trying to write blog posts to help articulate for myself a kind of teaching I aim for. I don’t have it down quite yet (not even close), but someday I hope to. For now, I hope by articulating what I do and why, I’ll get better at it. So here goes another attempt:

I work hard at listening and trying to understand my students. I try my best to remember and document what the ideas were, who had those ideas, and when and where those ideas came up. Doing so, allows me to give feedback like this on student blogs:

I’m noticing that you have a bunch of ideas to begin explaining what you saw: One idea seems to be that the bright spot in the center of the circle (on the ground) is the direct light from the bulb, and the dimmer areas are the reflected light off the mirror. This makes sense with your idea from class two Wednesday’s ago that reflected light should be dimmer than direct light. To me, this sounds like a more specific theory about what the mirror is doing than we’ve heard before. Maybe in your notebook you could draw a sketch of how you think this works?

It makes me wonder what Jane Doe would think, because she wrote in her paper that she didn’t think that reflected light would always dimmer, especially off a mirror. Jane, you around to weigh in?

Think about how that feedback would be different I didn’t remember past ideas and I didn’t remember who had what ideas and couldn’t pinpoint when those ideas surfaced.

  • I wouldn’t be able to help draw connections between ideas (ideas that occurred over 10 days)
  • I wouldn’t be able to pit two different ideas against each other
  • I wouldn’t be able to give appropriate authorship and be  reliable source of cited information (ideas that came from different persons in different venues)
  • I wouldn’t be able to invite a critic and dissenter to the conversation.
  • I wouldn’t be able to comment about how this idea is progress from previous attempt to explain
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2011 4:35 am

    Brian,
    This is super impressive. There are times I carry threads of a students comments from class to my written feedback, but never with this level of detail. A couple of questions: how many students do you have in a class? What tools do you use to record the feedback?

  2. September 11, 2011 11:51 am

    Only 24, which really helps. In a class of 32, I struggle. In a class of 10, it’s a breeze. MTSU uses D2L, so I leave my comments on there. I summarize my feedback with key words to remind me of the changes I should be looking for an a resubmit, and leave those key words in a spreadsheet. They get color-coded (red, orange, green), and correspond to how I am grading HW this year on 0,1,2 scale. Where 0 is rejected and not up for resubmission, 1 is accepted if revised and resubmitted, and 2 is accepted in full. Only 2’s count toward grade at the end.

    I’m not tracking my feedback on blogs. I don’t comment on everyone’s blog. They only have to comment on one per blog post assignment. I try to comment on 2-4.

    I am thinking over the idea of using Jing to talk over student papers instead of writing comment, but I’m not sure if I want to start another new thing. I am already doing a lot of new things this year: capstone projects, blogs, and binary grading.

  3. September 11, 2011 2:04 pm

    Brian,
    Do you write the more freeform ideas in D2L? So student makes insightful comment, what happens? Do you take time out to type out the comment? Make a note on paper?

  4. September 11, 2011 3:50 pm

    I write extensive narrative feedback on their HW through D2L: Including my attempts to summarize what I think they are saying. Questions I have. Things I am still curious about. I suggest places where they might need more details or might need to help distinguish between two things a reasonable reader might think they meant. As I give feedback, I write in my journal about common patterns of thinking I’m seeing, any really interesting ideas or comments, etc.

    In class, during a whole class conversation, I often take notes on my laptop when I am not writing at the board. When I am writing things down at the board, I am almost always writing down their ideas that come up. It’s their job to tell me if I got it wrong. Usually at the end I take a picture of board before erasing. I often but not always go back to look at pictures when I got write in my teaching journal.

    In class, if they are in small group work, I usually take some notes about different strategies or ideas that come up, by writing either in my laptop or piece of paper. I mostly write down stuff I want to remember for later during discussion or for homework.

    My blog and my teaching journal is also a place where I try to reflect and summarize all that happened. I try to see more of the big picture (rather than individual’s ideas), see more connections between ideas than I might have been able to see in class, and try to relate it to where we might go.

    I’m glad you are asking this question, because I had no idea I was doing all of this. I mean I know I am, but I hadn’t really tried to put it all down. Ask my wife, I spend too much time doing this kind of thing, but it’s the only way I’ll ever get better at it.

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