Milestone

I’m going to start off by quoting myself. This is what I once said in a comment on one of Ljiljana’s lovely posts:

I don’t think it’s likely I’ll feel comfortable calling myself a blogger until I’ve written about 50 posts.

This was in January 2015. Yes, over four years ago. Which won’t be a surprise if you’ve read any of my posts, as they usually start with something along the lines of: This post has only been waiting for me to get around to writing it for two years…

You guys! The day has finally arrived! This is … drum roll … post no. 50!

I still don’t see myself a blogger – maybe that’ll happen after 100 posts and if the first 50 are anything to go by, I think this may just happen before I retire 😛 –  but I *am* really glad I stuck with it. 

Anyway, this is simply to say that I’ve reached a milestone of sorts and I thought I’d do something different to mark the occasion. Because many of my posts have been about something digital, I figured I might as well try out something new and decided an infographic would fit the bill nicely. I haven’t done many of those and I’ve never tried out Piktochart, which I’ve heard good things about. (Adding this sentence before I hit publish: you can add links to the infographic, but they won’t be active if you’re on the free WP plan because you can’t embed content. I had to upload the png file, so you can’t click through to the two posts included in the image. But you can click through to the interactive version of the infographic if you want to give the AMORES post a bit more love.)

What do you think? Do you need to have written a certain number of posts before you qualify as a blogger? Does it matter at all? 

Thanks for reading!

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Correct me if I’m wrong II

painteverything: listen (CC BY 2.0)

Some weeks ago I wrote about correction and feedback on student work in Moodle. There are three longer pieces of writing over the semester that I look at in detail and in that post I described what I do with the first piece of writing: use track changes for (what would conventionally be seen as) errors and comment bubbles for more general observations, suggestions and recommendations. And praise, although I should probably add more of that. In my comment bank there’s a category titled “Good stuff”, which only has (gulp) 3 points. In the interest of full disclosure, I have 10 categories in total and 4 of these have 3 points or fewer.

I’ve recently corrected the second longer piece of writing and wanted to describe how this differs from the first. I got the idea for this from Clare Maas’ talk on multimodal learner-driven feedback, which she writes about in this post. I definitely recommend watching the talk as well; I thought it was embedded in the post and Google suggests it’s available on the LTSIG website, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to access it in order to include a link here.

In our face-to-face sessions we usually have a brief discussion on what the students consider important in a piece of writing, what they think they already do well and which areas they feel they would like to improve in. As they work on their second longer piece – which is usually no longer than 500 words – they have the option of looking back at the F2F activity and choosing an area (or areas) they would like more detailed feedback on.

Once they’ve handed it in, I use the same procedure as with the first submission (track changes and comment bubbles) but those students who’ve requested feedback on a specific area also receive an audio recording, in which I address these more specific issues – hence multimodal.

In terms of the tech involved, I use Speakpipe or Vocaroo, both of which are simple and intuitive, and add the audio files to Moodle along with the corrected version of the students’ submissions. The recordings are often no more than 5 minutes long – particularly with Speakpipe which cuts me off after 5 minutes – and I think this is a good thing because it forces me to be succinct and not ramble on unnecessarily. Of course, if I haven’t made all the points I wanted to, I’ll make another recording. I often make brief notes about what I want to say to help me stay on track.

Students don’t have to request feedback in a specific area and generally there are more of those who don’t. Just to give you an idea, in this semester’s group 5 out of 13 did. It now occurs to me that I could have included a question on this in the learning journal. Ideas I’ve had so far on why someone may have opted out include:

  • they don’t feel there’s any area they’re particularly good or bad at
  • they haven’t had practice in assessing their writing critically
  • they’ve put little effort into their submission (for whatever reason) and don’t feel comfortable with asking me to zero in on any aspect
  • they’re happy with “traditional” correction because it’s what they’re used to
  • they wouldn’t be taking the class anyway if it were optional, so they aren’t interested in feedback

On the other hand, re those who *do* ask for specific feedback, my guess is that they’re genuinely interested in the answer and will take the time to listen to the recording. I don’t let the students know beforehand that some of them will be receiving audio comments, so I guess you could argue that more of them might ask for feedback if they knew they’d receive it in a different format, if only for the sake of novelty. But I see this as something that might happen during office hours: if someone is interested in speaking to me about something specific, they’d come in and talk to me. In this case they can’t opt to talk to me, but they can ask a question they’re interested in and hear my answer.

I haven’t done any research yet on how students feel about different feedback modes, my reasoning being that the sample size is too small for anything conclusive. I guess I could treat it as a case study. This is something that’s on the back burner and could end up staying there for a while, although as I write this I feel guilty about not making time to hear the student perspective, regardless of how few of them have opted in.

I was wondering if your learners have a say in what they’d like you to give them feedback on re writing (or another skill), which formats you prefer to use for this and why. How do your learners feel about the different formats?

Thanks for reading!   

Correct me if I’m wrong

This post has been sort of brewing for a while: since the spring of 2015 if I’m honest. You may wonder how come I’m so sure about this. It’s because at the time I was using Kaizena for feedback and wanted to write about that. Only I never did.

Handwritten correction of less to fewer
Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @sandymillin, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Also, James Taylor had suggested at that year’s BELTA Day that instead of simply correcting student work, I could indicate the problem areas in the sentence and have the students do the correcting themselves. I found this idea very appealing and immediately put it into practice. I think we ran with it for a couple of semesters, but it turned out to be terribly time-consuming as I had to check every submission at least twice. Some I had to check three times because not all the students managed to do what I was hoping they would; i.e., they made a stab at correcting the error but went off in the wrong direction. I wanted to write about that too, only I never did.

In the post 7 things students expect from an online writing course (see the fourth thing), I briefly wrote about how I don’t actually do that much correcting. I’m not sure this is highly popular with students, as they’ve been taught to expect the instructor to correct their work, and there’s always the nagging feeling that they think I’m not doing my job properly. At the beginning of most semesters we discuss a couple of statements about writing as a group, one of which is: I expect the teacher/instructor to mark all the mistakes in my work. I ask the students to mark the statements as true or false and I don’t think I’ve ever had a student claim this particular one to be false for them.

I use this as an opportunity to explain that there are going to be three slightly longer pieces of writing throughout the semester on which they’ll be receiving detailed feedback and where everything that could be seen as a mistake or potentially confuse readers will be addressed, but apart from that, I won’t be correcting their grammar. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of the writing they do on the course is read by other students and I’ve always figured it wouldn’t exactly be productive to analyze to death something they’ve already used to communicate successfully.

I’ve recently completed this detailed correction for the first assignment of this semester and I wanted to have a kind of record what I do these days, both in terms of the tools involved and how I go about making corrections/giving feedback.

Since I stopped using Kaizena, I abandoned the idea of having students make corrections themselves. A quick digression: I’m pretty sure I’ve come across papers on Twitter on whether student correction of their own mistakes is effective, but haven’t bookmarked any, so please let me know if any research comes to mind. I think what I do now is fairly conventional. Students submit their work as a Word doc – or very occasionally in a different format which I then convert to Word so I can do my thing – and I upload the corrected versions of these back to Moodle when I’m done.

There are two types of interventions I do with the Word doc. If something is likely to be considered a mistake in terms of conventional grammar rules, I use the track changes option to correct this. If at all possible, I will add a comment explaining that this would be considered a mistake as far as standard usage rules are concerned. I’m not sure it’s very helpful to treat absolutely everything as fine just because it is fine in some dialect or other, although I do think students should be (made) aware of dialect differences. In my case, communication science students are generally aware of this in their L1, too, so my job is easier in this respect.

If I want to make a more general point, such as suggest that a student run a spell check on their submission, consider breaking up a longish paragraph into two or more if it seems to be addressing several ideas, or double check the meaning of a word they’ve used, I’ll add comment bubbles. I’ve done a post on a comment bank which I had – still have – in a regular Google Doc, but I’ve since come across this post on the Control Alt Achieve blog and started building up a comment bank in Google Keep, which does feel more organized. In the spirit of Sarah’s Twitter anniversary resolution, I think it was thanks to Adi Rajan that this post came up in my feed about two years ago.

Even though my online groups are small, giving feedback and correcting student work is time-consuming enough to make me want to know if there’s some kind of uptake, even if it’s just students reading my comments. When I used to ask them to correct their own mistakes, this obviously wasn’t something I worried about because they had to do it, even if perfunctorily, to make the corrections. The way I currently give feedback and correct though gives me no indication of whether the corrected version of the document has even been downloaded. There’s something I do about this in the second and third longer piece of writing (hopefully more on that in a future post) but for this first piece, what I do is include a reflection prompt on corrections and feedback in the portfolio section of the course. Not every student addresses this topic, but enough people do for me to feel that the work hasn’t been thrown away.

One other thing I should mention is the track changes option. There’s a tutorial in the course materials on how to view suggested changes if this option has been used. When I’ve corrected everyone’s submission, I post an announcement on the course noticeboard, pointing out that this tutorial is available should anyone want to have a look. (An indicator that they’ll want to have a look is if the suggested changes don’t show up for them automatically and they don’t know what to do about this.) Step two, when each individual submission is uploaded, the student is notified of this and the message says, among other things, that they should make sure to view the suggested changes – now as I write this, I realize that I should add a link to the tutorial on how to do this to the message.

The reason I mention this is that even though you think you’ve got it all covered, of course you don’t, and it is through a random comment that you realize that a student was completely unaware of any changes suggested to their text apart from the comment bubbles. Panic sets in as the idea surfaces that maybe no one has ever, in any of the last couple of semesters, seen any of the corrections. You’ve been doing it all for nothing, plus the students all think you haven’t actually been doing anything! The panic gradually fades away and you do all you can do, which is post an announcement explaining once again how corrections are made, a link to the tutorial, and a screenshot to illustrate how to access the review tab.

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear how you address corrections/feedback/corrective feedback on written work, not necessarily online. Any tips?