This week I’ve been asked to share my own thoughts on how GradeMark can be used effectively. After some recent student interviews on this topic, here are my top ten points, some of which apply outside of GradeMark too.
- Give sufficient emphasis in feedback to content and context as well as structural issues in student submissions. Students sometimes report back that they have too much emphasis on grammar, layout and spelling and not enough on content. Some tutors may have a preference to feedback on what is easier to see.
- Avoid annotations e.g. exclamations, highlighting question marks, without explanation for students – they don’t know what short hand annotations mean. Give ideas on what students can do to improve their work in future e.g. you might use a range of literature sources and compare the different ideas, rather than only providing one perspective.
- Use the full features of GradeMark to help with feeding forward on how to improve and to provide links to further advice. This is almost impossible to achieve by hand, so use the full range of the tools features.
- Wherever possible make sure that feedback can help with the next assignment – know what students will study next, so you can make these links.
Use the criteria explicitly in the feedback so that students can see how decisions about their work have been made. You could even use the colour feature within GradeMark to relate comments to different criteria e.g. Pink for analysis, Green for Evaluation, Yellow for structure and writing style.
- Avoid using the term “I think ….” While we all know feedback has a degree of subjectivity to it, making links to the criteria should counter the expression of personal preferences to determine marks. Students often feel that their marks are about playing to the preferences of different tutors. This can be countered by consistent use of criteria.
- Use summative comments as well as annotation to draw attention to the most important areas for future development and/or any specific issues arising. Students may not always be able to prioritise amongst many annotations.
- To speed up your workflow, consider using voice to text facilities alongside GradeMark. This is especially simple on Apple devices where the built in ‘speech to text’ is usable and accurate.
- Use common errors and issues from one year to pre-prepare comments for use in feedback in the following session (assuming adjustments in teaching don’t address everything). Because these are prepared in advance the advice can be more detailed and helpful and they can be used in teaching so that students can absolutely see what they should and shouldn’t do.
Wherever possible personalise comments; students appreciate the interaction or dialogue through feedback when it feels personalised to them or, when anonymous, to their work – “I suppose because we are all in the same boat, I suppose it wasn’t really personalized because I suppose a majority of us get the same things wrong” (Student quote 2017). So if you aren’t personalising, advise the students why this is the case. If you do want to personalise there are many ways to do this including:
- Using an audio comment in addition to generic text comments
- Adding additional specific comments on to generic comments
- Including a summary comment in addition to annotation
I’m sure there are other points, and some of these are already well rehersed in literature, though particularly point 1. is little explored elsewhere.