Exceeding Expectations: Successful Discussion Board Grading Feedback for Students

ManComputerAppleKUWC2By Josef Vice, Composition Faculty, Kaplan University, Course Lead for CM 107

The grading process can really be time consuming and challenging, especially if you are following all your university and department guidelines for assessment and using best practices as well (personalizing the feedback, including highlighted rubric, and giving suggestions for improvement); however, all the time you spend on giving quality feedback to students is truly worth the effort and can have profound effects upon you and your students.

Feedback, if it is effective, is part of the teaching and learning process itself, and if you give students feedback that is not prescriptive (that simply tells what is wrong) and if you instead offer students encouragement, offer them specific advice for how to meet and exceed expectations, and show them ways they can do it, then they will indeed surprise you.

The first week of this term, I received several emails from  my College Composition I (CM107) students who could not understand why they did not “earn” 40 out of 40 possible points on their Discussion Board grade.  After all, they posted two responses to classmates, they said. They had met all the requirements, or so they thought.  I encouraged them to read the feedback in the gradebook that told them what a good job they had done but that also said that they would receive higher scores, and get more out of the class, if they, for example,  made sure that they went beyond praise and agreement when they responded to their classmates and if they made “frequent and informed references to the unit reading material” and demonstrated that they could apply what they learned from the course textbook, The Kaplan University Guide to Successful Writing,  since both are requirements spelled out in the CM107 DB rubric and that we had emphasized as being important in seminar and announcements. The gradebook feedback I had given these students, by the way, also offered them ways they might do just that, rather than simply telling them they had not met that particular rubric requirement. I reminded them that this would help them to have mastery of the course concepts, and it would help them, once THEY became experts on the course material, to help their classmates to also, in turn, become content experts and therefore better writers.

Students don’t like hearing that they need to work harder,

that they need to do more,

that they may have to rise to the occasion and meet all expectations . . .

but if we remind them of the value of doing so, and we show them how, they actually will.

And guess what?

This week, their Discussion Board  work is tremendously improved. Many students are exceeding rubric expectations and are helping not only themselves to become better writers but they are also helping each other out because they have read and are referring to Kaplan University Guide to Successful Writing and Kaplan University Writing Center workshop material on how to write a strong thesis rather than simply posting those ubiquitous “good job” responses we all want them to avoid.  If I had given them a 40/40, because it might have been less work for me, or because it would have been easier to avoid those emails from students questioning their scores, maybe everyone would have been happier, but I don’t think so.  Students don’t improve when we do that and, in effect, we aren’t teaching them either.  Of course, not all my students in week 2 will receive 40 out of 40 points, but many of them will, and they will have earned it, and I’m hoping that each week, more and more students will take this grading feedback advice to heart and work on making sure they meet and exceed all expectations on these Discussion Board posts.

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