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Meaningful Feedback

One thing I find incredibly useful as a student is meaningful feedback from my professors. What I mean by this is feedback that shows me my professor has read my work, synthesized it, and wants to give me genuine feedback to improve my work on the topic moving forward. It’s also important to me to give this to my own students.

But really, though–who has the time?

This past fall I decided to implement weekly reading responses to see if I could improve the number of students who actually do their required reading for class. Every Thursday my students submit a one page response on that week’s readings, the first paragraph being a summary of the readings and the second paragraph being their reaction. I push them to connect the readings to their own lives, their fieldwork, and their own past educational experiences. This change in my course has been above and beyond what I could have expected.

These responses serve many purposes. They allow me to check to see who is reading; it’s obvious when they are not and just wrote something to do the assignment. They make my students learn how to write succinctly; they only have a paragraph to describe anywhere from two to five articles, so they must quickly learn how to summarize without overwriting. They get the students in the habit of writing weekly; writing is a muscle and the more you do it, the better at it you get. They push the students to think critically about real psychological issues in education and how they relate to them. They make the students think about what it really means to become an educator. They also allow my students to express their opinions and to disagree with concepts without being overly vocal about it and getting the class off track.

Some of the most thoughtful work I see is from these responses, and I love reading them. By week three, though, my feedback becomes few and far between. I read them all, but finding the time to do anything more in-depth than a check mark at the top and the occasional written interjection. This goes back to a previous post talking about how exhausting it is being a graduate student and an educator. I value my students’ contributions and would love to find ways to give them more meaningful feedback on more than just their final project. Are there any suggestions? What do you do to provide your students with meaningful feedback?

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