For the last few weeks, we have been offering time-saving tips for delivering feedback to individual students and to larger groups as they work on projects for your classes. But we suspect that now, since the semester is over, you likely will not be giving your students much formative feedback.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use this time to improve the efficiency of your feedback processes. Now that the semester is over, you have a great opportunity to do some forward thinking about next semester. And, if you plan it right, we think you can actually provide your students with more feedback, while spending less time delivering that feedback.
In this post, we detail the design of a semester and feedback plan to maximize the amount of feedback students receive on their work and minimize the time we spend writing to students.
Designing Semester and Feedback Plans
Although designing a semester plan for your class seems like a daunting task, it allows you to frontload scheduling due dates, giving you more time during the actual semester to flesh out the specifics of your course (like assigned readings and class activities) as it progresses week to week, assignment to assignment. To create this kind of plan, we are providing you with starting points that focus on two essential functions of your classroom: what you ask students to produce, and what kind of feedback they will need for those products. By creating a rough timeline of assignments and feedback, you can avoid overbooking your schedule (and yourself), and respond to students more efficiently.
Designing a Semester Plan
- Make a list of your major assignments. When will you introduce an assignment to your class? What are the goals of those assignments? How long will these assignments take for students to complete?
- Make a list of your minor assignments. What smaller activities does the class need to complete to support that major assignment? How long will those take? Will they require feedback from you, their peers, the class as a whole (hey we have plenty of resources to help you with this btw)? Where will these varieties of feedback be most beneficial for students in your class?
- Identify places where students need feedback. Do your students need your feedback on one major assignment before they can complete the next one? What goals do the minor projects support?
- Consider your own schedule. Now is also a good time to remember to plan your semester timeline in accordance with your own academic life–are there weeks you will attend conferences? If you are a graduate student, when are your final projects due? When are your exams? Maybe avoid scheduling due dates around this time.
Designing a Feedback Plan
- Schedule products. After you’ve listed your major and minor assignments and the amount of time they’ll take, begin placing them on a timeline.
- Identify goals. Based on the overarching goals for a unit or a semester, which goals does each of these assignments support? Articulating these in advance will help guide how you design feedback prompts in the future.
- Identify kinds of feedback students can receive. Knowing that there are a variety of ways to respond to student work, identify specific kinds of feedback students can receive to enhance their performance along project goals.
- Distribute feedback moments across time, and distribute labor across people. This is a point we emphasized in our earlier posts — don’t plan all your feedback to come at once. If you distribute the work of feedback across time, students will receive more — and more focused — responses, and will likely absorb more of their feedback.
- Distribute the labor of giving feedback across people. Students will receive more feedback (and, we believe, will learn more) if you give them the responsibility of responding to their colleagues at critical moments in a project.
Check out a model feedback plan based on a unit Matt used in his class in the Spring 2015 semester.
As you can see, with this feedback plan, students receive feedback throughout the whole process of producing their research papers and projects, and get feedback on every minor product that leads up to the major products. The feedback is also designed so that students receive feedback on each of the goals for the Research Unit.
However, this feedback plan is designed to minimize the amount of time Matt spends writing to students. During the whole unit, he will only need to write to students two times (Week 3 and Week 7), and might write a total of 3 paragraphs to each student. But, he will also offer individuals feedback through verbal feedback during scheduled class time and in individual conferences (Week 8 and Week 11), and provide verbal feedback to the whole class on several occasions (Week 2, Week 6, Week 7).
While not all teachers have the luxury to control all parts of their assignments or schedule, we hope and believe the strategy of developing a Feedback Plan is flexible enough to work for many teachers.
We’d Love to Hear from You: What methods do you use to schedule your assignments? What projects take up the most time during your semester? What do you do when the timing of a unit is too fast or slow? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Matt Gomes comes to Michigan State from Fresno, located in California’s Central Valley. He is an Inside Teaching Fellow with research interests include writing assessment, program assessment, and the rhetorics of institutional practice. Currently, he is interested in studying the material consequences of writing assessments for students, and how assessment mechanisms have shifted in response to a changing landscape of American postsecondary education.
Heather Noel Turner is a PhD student in Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures (WRAC) and an Inside Teaching Fellow at MSU. She is most passionate about computers and writing. Her research seeks to answer questions concerning visual rhetoric, digital pedagogy, community engagement and knowledge making (in both physical and digital environments).