Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If it's not graded, I won't do it

One task all faculty at GVSU are asked to do every February is prepare an annual Faculty Activity Report (FAR). This entails compiling a complete list of our efforts for the past calendar year in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service.
Our procedures are a bit more involved than this...
One piece of our FAR includes a reflection on trends we have noticed in our student evaluations of instruction. A colleague who had read my teaching reflection invited me to share the following in the hope that others seeking to make sense of and respond to student evaluations of instruction might find it useful.

One trend I have noticed in my teaching evaluations is captured by the student comments below:
  • Grade our home workshops. For the most part, if there is no checking of the work I won’t do it.
  • Would have liked more graded homework problems. I think students who spend time doing homework should be rewarded.
  • He didn’t grade any of the work we did for homeworks (sic). I put in a lot of hours on homework and didn’t get grades out of it.
These comments concern me. I work hard to provide home workshops that are meaningful and that will lay the foundation for our in-class discussions and learning activities, but from a SBG perspective, it is counter-productive to grade students’ initial attempts. Of course, any homework task may be submitted as evidence (read: “graded”) whenever the student feels it constitutes a strong piece of evidence for one or more of our learning targets. This semester, I am being more explicit by assigning certain home workshops, called “evidence workshops,” that aim to help students collect (or create) evidence of their proficiency with our learning targets, and I am setting deadlines roughly every two weeks for evidence submission. Hopefully this strategy will highlight the relevance of the home workshops in relation to our learning targets.

Timely feedback is important in any grading system, and I also wonder if these requests for more graded work might be a veiled request for more frequent feedback. I tend to use peer-feedback through small group discussions as a primary mechanism for checking for understanding. But perhaps what my students are telling me is that this peer-feedback is not enough. To address this possibility, I have re-initiated a practice I had not used in several years: I am having students lead daily homework presentations. I will be monitoring whether this strategy, along with the SBG system and the peer- and self-evaluation procedures I am using, is giving students sufficient opportunities to receive timely feedback on their attempts.

No comments:

Post a Comment