Feedback is crucial to learning. Students are reassured by acknowledgment of their progress and they need to know what to improve upon. Regular feedback is one of the most effective ways of improving a student’s grade. Feedback can also be tricky. We need to motivate students to improve rather than burden them with a depressing, litany of “no”s and problems. We need to acknowledge what they did well as well as what they did wrong. We also need to provide clear, substantive feedback rather than just unclear lines on a page near good or bad sentences–how do students even know what is good and what is bad?
The most common form of feedback is a grade, perhaps with incorrect answers marked wrong and perhaps with a few comments. But if we include a grade, students often only look at the grade and not the comments. Indeed, as a student, I remember wanting to read and consider the comments but being very drawn to the grade. Standards-based grading eliminates the numerical or letter grade, so the importance of comments and narrative feedback increases dramatically. While researching standards-based grading, I found many teachers liked the SE2R system because it gave teachers a structure for how to provide narrative feedback. It can be summarized in this nice infographic:
- A structured, routine way to provide comments.
- It ties the comments to the learning standards.
- It helps you conceptualize what they have done when you summarize their work.
- It shows the student how you interpreted their work. Depending on the subject, this offers the student the chance to understand if they communicated what they wanted to communicate. This is better than making them guess from what perspective you were commenting on their work.
- It shows the student what they have done and where they need to improve.
- It is a clearer way to communicate than “92%” or “Good job!” or “See me.” It should limit the number of conversations that start with “Wait, I don’t understand why I got this grade.”
- It provides students with resources for how to improve.
- It offers students the chance to improve their grade.
- Students may still be distracted by a letter grade and not focus on comments. Perhaps you could not give them a letter or number grade until after the work is resubmitted.
Finally, this method may or may not save time while grading students work. You might spend more time commenting at the end of a paper, but you may not need to provide as many detailed comments throughout the paper–although those would still be helpful for students. Some quizzes and tests might take longer to grade with this method, or this method could be used flexibly on only those assessments that could have received the “See me” comment. It all depends on the assessment and on the quality and amount of feedback you want (or need) to provide to help your students learn and succeed.