Sharing Conclusions With Students: Vignette #6

Vignette #6  –  In an effort to explore how they can use technology to provide meaningful feedback to their students, a group of high school teachers gathers to share what they know and to support experimentation with new approaches.


Veteran English teacher Jim Murphy looks forward to participating in monthly inter-department professional development groups where he shares and gathers teaching ideas from colleagues. He is particularly interested in this month’s meeting which will focus on how to make use of technology to provide meaningful and high quality feedback to students. Like many of his English department colleagues, Jim grapples with providing effective and ongoing support for student writing. Over the years he has experimented with various strategies, from mini-conferencing to providing descriptive and specific feedback on particular “focus correction areas” for each assignment. With years of reflecting on student progress, Jim concedes that a most crucial piece of learning comes from how well his students are able to hear, understand, and implement change based on the feedback he provides. He shares that conferencing with students over goal setting/meeting has been effective in providing formative assessment that leads to better writing and understanding. That said, Jim acknowledges the time constraints that make having enough conference time challenging for his eighty plus student load. He also wonders about some students who seem to “hear” him during conferences, but then forget the points from their discussion and his written comments when it comes to writing the next paper. He is curious to learn more about how he might use technology to mirror and improve upon his success with student conferencing. Jim admits that he would like to increase the frequency with which his students write, but he needs strategies that would afford him more time (and efficiency) when responding to the writing.

Jim is thrilled to hear ideas from colleagues across the departments. He learns about using the “comments feature” on GoogleDocs from a history teacher as a way of more easily providing feedback directly to student work. He is further intrigued by a teacher who creates Podcasts of specific comments while responding to her students’ papers.  She number labels points throughout the paper so that students can reference the specific points while listening to her comments. Jim thinks about the time he spends responding to student work, and how valuable it could be to record specific feedback for students to replay as many times as needed. He knows that many of his students could benefit from hearing comments multiple times as they learn how to self-adjust, make changes and improve. Without time constraints and scheduling challenges, he could provide his eighty plus students with valuable on-line feedback/guidance that could be referenced throughout the semester. When a colleague from the Science Department shares a “screencast” program that she successfully uses to provide audio and visual feedback/guidance on student projects, Jim is both thrilled and a bit intimidated by the prospect. He relishes the idea of being able to talk a student through her paper with visuals and audio, but is initially overwhelmed by the number of tech options: Jing, Screenr, Sketchcast, and Aviary – to name a few. He is relieved when a colleague offers to take him through a student paper and help set up an account. He is also comforted to see that there are multiple on-line tutorials that seem less complicated than the names appear. 

Introduced to additional ideas about feedback for on-line homework programs and formative assessment ideas on the Ipad (coming to his classroom next year), Jim leaves the meeting feeling excited by the possibility of merging feedback strategies that he has developed over the years with the newest tech opportunities. He hopes that this partnership will enable him to increase the frequency with which his students write while further providing them with more individualized and easily accessed feedback and guidance.




  • UNC-Chapel Hill Sakai Blog  –  Although this two-minute video addresses the specific system at UNC, it provides a useful idea of how student papers could be turned into PDF’s to send to teachers, who could then provide helpful feedback using Ipad technology.


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