Hello, everyone! It is great to be back in this learning platform with you all, and I look forward to sharing ideas, resources, and tools.
I thought I would address my response to this blog by going back to the three areas I identified in the google doc as the writing concerns that most often elicit my feedback in the writing process, and then highlight which tools/practices I am likely to use in onground vs. online environments and how although the goals may be the same, the methods vary.
- Issues with interpreting the topic/prompt (e.g. is the student’s initial work/claim clearly responding to the assignment; does it need some redirection or strengthening).
This takes center stage in the ESL classroom (as I’m sure it does in a more traditional classroom), but it can be quite a challenge due to students’ experience (or lack thereof) of expository, reading-based writing assignments in their home countries as well as the linguistic gaps that might hinder their initial understanding of the depth and breadth of an assignment. In a f2f classroom, students can orally share their thesis statement for immediate feedback; students can post their initial ideas on the board for a walk-around feedback from me and their classmates; we can select some strong thesis statements and direct it back to the writing prompt to ensure the topic is being interpreted correctly and the claim is one which will work for a given assignment. It is pretty second nature to do a number of these activities early in the process in the classroom.
In a completely online setting, we would need to get the same accomplished but use the technology to assist. A couple of immediate ideas would be to use a google doc to have students post their work and have written feedback/suggestions provided. Based on that work, I could create a Jing or Camtasia video looking at the google doc and its comments and work through orally and with highlighting etc., some of the stronger ones showing the connections we are looking for, and/or selecting a few that might need some redirecting and using those to talk through some options and suggestions.
- Developing support in the body paragraphs. I often need to encourage the students to “dive deeper” vs. staying surface level in supporting their claims through the evidence and analysis (usually the area I need to spend more time addressing) provided.
Again, we spend a lot of time in a traditional classroom working to get students to develop their evidence and analysis more specifically and convincingly. In f2f, I might ask students to select a paragraph that is brief or that has already received some initial feedback that offers suggestions for further development. I might have students underline their topic sentence and then for the supporting sentences that follow use a colored marker to highlight whether the sentence seems to offer evidence for the claim or is analyzing it. This works to get them to see what type of development they might be favoring and where they need to go deeper. For this type of activity online, I might use the Discussion Board to have the student do this same activity, highlighting sentences as evidence or analysis. This is a good check for me to see if they are understanding the difference and it allows for them to easily compare their thinking to their classmates. I could then assign others to use directed questions to ask their classmates and offer suggestions on how they might more specifically develop content.
- Clarity issues- I don’t typically comment on students’ grammar but instead focus on their clarity, particularly in the early stages.
In an L2 classroom, it is very commonplace to offer suggestions for language/word choice issues. When students are grappling with an assignment and a number of readings on a new topic of exploration, they may not have some of the targeted vocabulary necessary or expected in an academic response; they also typically need help with collocations and other more discrete word form issues. For example, on an assignment addressing issues of what it means to be financially independent, they would need to understand the differences between word forms, e.g. finance (as both a noncount and countable noun), financial, financially, etc. They would also need help with collocations related to finance: frugal, budget, investment, credit, debt, consumer, etc. And of course, they might need help understanding other idioms of finance like “a ballpark figure” or “cutting one’s losses.” In an f2f class, we start a Vocab/Word Form list of common vocabulary they are likely to encounter and/or use in their own writing. Each class as something comes up, we add it to the list, I take a picture of it at the end of class, and it gets posted to Canvas.
So this can also be done virtually using a google doc specifically designed for these sorts of global vocab needs. As for more personal responses to student writing, again I would likely either offer some typed feedback suggestions or use a simple audio feedback option on a discussion board.
In all honesty, I think that doing the feedback online is much more time consuming than doing the feedback collectively in a classroom. But the benefit of the online systems is that they are a more “permanent” experience that students can go back to, review, reflect, model, etc. I know even though I do the same sort of feedback in a classroom, in writing and/or orally, it can be more fleeting or the students might only capture part of it. With online, I can redirect them back to the feedback and they can also learn from feedback I provide to classmates.
So for the last bit of this (sorry, rather lengthy) blog, I wanted to comment on Chapter 12: Grading: Should It Change When You Teach Online? I think this is such a critical conversation and one which I have been thinking about a lot. Warnock provides his breakdown of grading percentages of his onsite vs. online class. I have never been one to give quizzes in a comp class or a number of smaller point-based assignments; instead, I build in a number of scaffolded assignments that culminate in their essay assignment. Each essay assignment through the semester builds on the previous and point values increase. I do have additional points for their final portfolio, active participation, and journal. However I think I would really need to restructure some of this for online. I am fortunate that I get to observe three online 100 classes this semester by our online gurus- curry, Tony B. and Jim. I am noting that each of them has a lot of regular, weekly points assigned for anything from small quick-check quizzes on lessons to postings made to google docs, to graded discussion board forums. This would be a huge shift in my teaching approach but one that I think is necessary and would be beneficial in the online arena. As I see more of this play out and read your perspectives, I see that this is likely to influence and change the way I grade in my f2f as well.