Our goal for this series is to save you time and make your feedback more efficient toward best student learning. Last week, we focused on providing individual feedback to students once a project is under way. This week, we’ll focus on providing feedback to larger groups of students.
From Individual to Group Feedback
While individual feedback can be useful for attending to specific aspects of individual students’ work, we’ve found students sometimes exhibit similar strengths and challenges. These are moments when your time might be better used identifying commonalities across a class and using these commonalities as teaching opportunities. Below, find three different ways to effectively structure group feedback.
1. Identify Class Patterns (Teacher-to-Class Feedback)
Much of the labor of providing responses to students comes from writing to each student individually. It can help to identify when individual responses are necessary, when responses to an entire class might be more pedagogically efficient, and when to deliver feedback to an entire class. To do this, we:
- Read through projects and identify patterns. For example, in a recent project Matt assigned, he found many students were performing well in terms of citing sources and crafting mechanically correct sentences, but had similar problems with organization and offering critical analysis. Because of the pervasiveness of his concerns, he interpreted these issues as something worth spending time on in class.
- Address comments to the whole class. We do qualify our feedback, noting that not all students have the same strengths and weaknesses, but that what we are identifying are general patterns.
- Offer to meet students individually during office hours if they have questions. Having identified specific concerns, these meetings often run much quicker than they would without specific goals.
2. Redistribute the Labor of Identifying Patterns (Student-to-Class Feedback)
We’ve already recommended redistributing the labor of offering individualized feedback. You can do the same thing by asking students to identify patterns across the class’ work. To do this, we:
- Model feedback! We told you this before, we are telling you now, and you should tell yourself this over and over again. By modeling feedback (i.e. walking through the ways you would respond to a project), you are teaching students how to respond to each other, as well as how to read and understand your comments.
- Give students projects to assess. This helps students get a fuller view of the work being done across the class, allowing them to begin to notice patterns and to think about their work in relation to the work done by their classmates.
- Ask students to look for patterns. Matt has found there are several good ways to have students identify patterns: he sometimes asks students to identify strengths and weaknesses from a corpus of work; or, closer to high-stakes evaluations (or grading moments), he’ll ask them to rate performance along a specific evaluation criterion.
- Ask students to generalize. What do strong projects do? What about weaker projects? Have students articulate moves that make strong projects strong. This is a place where you can intervene and offer your perspective about what makes work succeed in your class, (especially in relation to specific evaluation criteria).
- Ask students to develop revision strategies. Once your class has articulated the features of good performance, ask students to and develop specific strategies for revising their own work.
3. Facilitate Student-to-Student Feedback (Small Group Feedback)
If you like peer review but are having mixed results, structuring smaller groups of students (2-3) could help you guide student responses to the whole group. To do this, we:
- Ask students to identify problems. Heather typically asks students to choose no more than three struggles from their project (“I am having a little trouble organizing my paragraphs”) or process (“I am not sure how to revise my argument”). This gives small group members (and you) specific ways to give feedback.
- Ask students to respond to group member concerns. Whether their responses are physically on a group member’s paper, embedded as a digital comment, or written in a brief response memo, ask all small group members to read and respond to each other’s concerns.
- Meet with small groups and facilitate feedback. Have a student share their concerns, ask their group members to provide feedback, and facilitate any questions that come up from the discussion. This could range from how to apply specific feedback to their writing or sometimes what to do if feedback from group members don’t seem helpful.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve offered strategies for providing and facilitating feedback when a project is already under way. Next week, we’ll discuss how to plan for feedback before a project begins and after it ends.
We’d Like to Know: When do you find your feedback most influential for students learning? What methods do you use for engaging students in the feedback process? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.