Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alternative Assessment: Student-Centered Grading

Today we'll look at how we assess our progress as individuals, as group members, and as students within the larger context of the classroom and university.  Much of the "changes" we'll be looking at involve how to enter this discussion with our colleagues about personal performance.

This lesson is based largely on Cathy N. Davidson's article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Return to Project 1 Groups
We'll start by returning to our groups from Project 1.  Already, you've had some meetings with your Project 2 Groups, and you have a good idea of the direction of your next project.  In your Project 2 Groups, you've also considered criteria for gauging progress.

Now, we're going to apply our goals for Project 2 and take a look back at our experiences with Project 1.  Our aim is to see how our experiences have affected our personal perspectives, and then to see how we can best apply our lessons learned to future projects.

Step 1: Looking at the Evaluation Process
First, we're going to take a quick look at how we evaluate each others work.  Looking at the feedback from your Project 1 Blogs, we'll examine the nature of helpful feedback for writing.  In particular, we'll be looking at how to give sufficient - and specific - comments regarding each other's work.
Step 2: Freewriting Your Experience as a Group Member
The first step to providing effective feedback is to understand what exactly we feel about a given experience.  Most writing workshops and business teams expect this to simply happen internally - you might gripe to coworkers about how you didn't like a given experience, or you might feel a sense of relief when your group members say they really like something you've put together, but such feelings are never expressed officially.  Usually, they're simply forgotten over time - unless, of course, they leave lingering feelings that feel forever unresolved.

In the next part of this exercise, we're going to be providing verbal and written feedback for our classmates regarding their participation and progress.  Before we do, we're going to freewrite our honest thoughts and opinions on their work.  We won't be sharing these free-writes - the words are for you alone (no turn-in), so please feel free to use paper or computer (whichever feels more comfortable).

  1. Start with Your Classmates: Yes, this may feel strange.  But I'd like you to simply write as fast as you can about the students you've worked with.  Don't worry about progressive feedback - just write your impressions.  Write down the most annoying habits they have, and then write down what you enjoyed about working with them.  What surprised you?  What did you like about your group?  What ticked you off? (10 minutes)
  2. Next Write About Yourself: We start with our classmates because our thoughts about others can provide insights into our own behaviors.  Think about how you interacted with your group members.  What were the good things you did?  What could you have done better?  Do you think you might have ticked-off anyone?  (5 minutes)
Please be as honest as you can.  As I said, these are not for others - if you like, you can delete them when you're done.

Step 3: Clarify Your Thoughts on Paper
Now take time to clarify your thoughts.  In a new document (one which you will share with others on the Facebook group) please write the highlights of your feedback.  For each of your group members, please write down at least one positive habit you've observed, and then write down at least one area in which your classmate could improve.

Please note that you don't need to write down all your feedback.  If you don't feel comfortable sharing something on paper, you don't have to - you can simply discuss it orally in Step 4.

Once you've finished, copy your write-up to your group's document on the Facebook page.

Step 4: Share Progressive Feedback
Within your groups, I'd like you to each go through and discuss the roles of each member of the group.  I recommend going in a circle, but this conversation can happen in whichever way feels natural.  Simply continue Progressive Feedback, looking for common observations among the group and then asking questions of each group member.

The emphasis here is on how to improve - we want to encourage our classmates to continue with the habits which you appreciated, and then show them ways to take their learning to the next level.



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