IFS – Individual Feedback Sessions

I am currently reading the book Creating Cultures of Thinking. It really resonates with me in a lot of ways, and I read about a potential game changer today in the chapter about time. An English teacher in Australia employs what he calls the Individual Feedback System for grading essays. I am trying to think about a way to test it out.

The way it works is that he sets up a weekly (or bi-weekly) meeting time with each student which is the time that the writing is due for that student. With the student present, he reads, provides written feedback and grades the papers. Students can take notes or record the session. He takes no grading home, which is a really attractive feature of the model. But he also gets to explain the feedback and talk about the writing with the student present. Too often, I feel like students don’t read my comments. Sometimes they don’t know what I mean, and they meet with me so I can go over the feedback. I can imagine how much more effective it would be if my students were there when I wrote my comments. It would be a step towards personalized learning. It would be an ongoing conversation.

So, how might this work in our setting? Meetings might need to take place once a cycle rather than weekly. It would mean changing the way I think about assigning writing. Not everyone would be doing the same thing at the same time. It would require more of my in-school time to be scheduled. Due to where the cycle days fall around holidays, there might be a really long time for some kids to do an essay and a shorter time for others.There would probably still need to be some assignments that all students would do together, but maybe not. I have to think about that. I don’t think I could manage doing this with all of my classes all at once, and it would definitely require a little explanation and set up time.

I would love to hear others’ thoughts about this and the potential problems that may come with it. I definitely see the upside, and sometimes when I get excited about something, I don’t consider the issues associated with it. I am thinking that I will start this with my juniors after the Research Paper. I may even offer for them to set up their appointment time and begin meeting during the paper, so that students who want more feedback along the way can get it. I will explain it to them soon so that anyone who want to set up a cycle meeting now can do so. I have the chance for a fresh start in a new unit, the first thematic unit of the year, after the Research Paper. I could see having one essay or a few short pieces due, like blog posts, each meeting. I know this won’t play well with Assignment Center, which does not allow for customized due dates, but I will try to figure something out.

Grading papers generally drains energy and meeting with students often replenishes it. Students will know when they will get their feedback, and it will be much closer to when they finish writing, I assume. For me, the grading will be spaced out, so I will not face the mountain of essays at once. This seems too good to be true, but also too promising to not try.

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5 thoughts on “IFS – Individual Feedback Sessions

  1. I’d love to hear from you about how this goes when you try it. It seems exactly like my audio feedback on essays, except for the fact that it’s done with the student there, and during school time.

    Here’s where I would struggle like nobody’s business with this: I have a really hard time giving students low grades (when they deserve them) to their faces. I just really struggle to do that. And so, I wouldn’t give the most honest feedback face-to-face. Often, for assignments that I evaluate in person, I take notes and share feedback face-to-face but then I tell them I need some time to reflect before finalizing a grade. It just doesn’t work if I don’t have a little space away from the person I’m evaluating. So, I’d still need to assign the grade later, which would be getting my head around the assignment a second time.

    Perhaps I could make this work if I filled out the feedback sheet (asking the student to just sit there quietly while I thought for a minute) but assigned the grade later, based on my notes?

    One other observation: I have tried schemas to meet with every student about each essay, with just one course. It took over my life. I just couldn’t make it work during the school day in a way that felt sustainable. If I somehow could get to a point where I wasn’t also taking work home, I’d go for an even more jammed school day, but that would mean doing this for all or most essays… and I’m not sure there’s time for it.

    In a nutshell: I truly hope you can find a way to make this work, as I love the idea and would love to try it. But I (with my quirky make-up) struggle with pieces of it.

    • I definitely hear your concerns, and I think that it might be hard for me at first. I think that a policy of revision makes the initial grade less important, and if the students leaves the meeting with a clear sense of how to improve for a better grade, I could get over my discomfort.

      The only way this works is if it replaces work at home. I know I could not do it for all of my classes, but I really think I could make some serious progress with the historical skills of my juniors if I can do it with them. It will be easier, I think, because when we start it I will have already been working closely with them on the Research Paper.

  2. I am reading the same chapter. I was wondering how I can do this with my 7th graders. My advanced students do research projects and I’d like to do this with them. Good luck. It can be done, I think, with perfect planning.

    • I love that book! I am not sure about doing it with younger students, since it requires much planning on their part as their work would be due at the meeting, not all at the same time. I struggle with thinking about that even with my sophomores. It may also just be a function of course design. I plan to start with my juniors this year as a pilot.

      • I ask the students to write research logs and thought I might try it with that. They do a log a week for 5 weeks. I could choose 1 log for each student/group. And I have time at the end of the day to do it. And I love the book too.

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