A major purpose of taking the flipped approach to teaching is to create more time in the classroom in order to enable more active learning types of student learning experiences. In addition to off-loading content to the “cloud” one can carve out more time by enabling feedback to happen online. There are different types of feedback: teacher-student, student-teacher and, student-student. Today we will talk about teacher-student feedback
One type teacher-student feedback is grading. In a traditional classroom the student hands in the work to the teacher on paper, the teacher then grades the work and in many cases enters feedback on the paper and then puts a grade at the top of the paper. Grades are often entered into the teacher’s paper grade book. If students want to know all of their grades or their average they have to ask the teacher to look in the grade book.
This type of teacher-student feedback can be moved online. Whether creating your own website using Google sites or using a learning management system (LMS) such as Moodle, Blackboard or Schoology, students can submit assignments by uploading them to the class website. This way no actual paper passes hands. One nice side-effect of using the technique is that assignments are time-stamped. No more can students claim that they handed in an assignment when the teacher says that she does not have it. Teachers can then grade these assignments online. If the document was created using MS Word, the teacher can use the comment feature to insert comments on the document. This is a much more readable way of writing comments then by writing the comments by hand on a piece of paper. Teachers can also upload this graded document back to the website so that students can retrieve the feedback. In many LMS environments there is an online grade book that fully integrates with the uploaded assignments. The teacher can upload the graded assignment, enter a grade in the same window and even add a summary comment. Once submitted some LMS systems will automatically generate an email to the students (usually this is optional) with their grade and summary comment. Students can then retrieve the graded assignment online.
Moving the entire grading process online saves class time. Teachers do not have to take up class time passing out papers to the students. Students do not have to ask the teachers what their average is or what their grades are. This class time savings probably amounts to 5 or 10 minutes which is a lot as all of us teachers can attest to. Students have time to digest the feedback before class and teachers can even ask the students to email them with questions regarding their grade rather than taking up class time with questions. Of course, sometimes it is important for teachers to speak directly to the students and this is always an option at the discretion of the teacher especially now that more class time has been saved.
Many teachers immediately cringe at the thought of grading papers online. I maintain that this is just an old (albeit very ingrained habit) and can be broken. For example, I have always read the newspaper over breakfast each morning. I finally broke myself of the habit and now I not only always read the newspaper online but I actually find this an easier way to get the news than constantly fiddling with papers. It took a while but now I actually prefer this way of reading the news. It is nice to keep old habits but wouldn’t it be better to save more time in the classroom for more essential work? Even if the time saved is to field questions on the returned assignments at least now there is more time to do this.
If the goal of the flipped classroom is to create more time in the classroom, why not use other techniques that can save class time. Teacher-student feedback is one place that can be done online. It saves only a small amount of time but as we all know, effectively using time in the classroom is a critical factor to creating a good learning atmosphere.
I totally agree with your post, Mark! I switched to online grading using Google Docs and it not only saves time, but also it allows students to receive feedback almost instantaneously. Throughout the year, the students would grant me access to their work and I would review and comment on it. They, in turn, would then look over the comments, send me questions or comments, and make corrections. The results were quite positive. Students were more mindful about not repeating mistakes in their assignments. Additionally, neither they nor I lost any work, which can happen with hard copies.