Friday, February 01, 2013

Comments Feedback Grades Self-reflection

Single slice
Single Slice Photo by Pernilla Rydmark under a CC license

As we each carve out our slice of etmooc, I know that I am just nibbling on a slice, not eating the whole pie (nod to Darren Kuropatwa's vlog about moocs. I guess we each have to think about how this fits in with our lives. One idea that has been percolating in my head is the difference between grades, feedback and comments.

Grades end conversations. It is a long time since I was in school, but I do remember that virtually anything that was graded was quickly filed in the garbage can - no discussion, no reflection, no going back to puzzle out the why of the grade. So sad that our society seems to thrive on grades without understanding what they do and don't do for learning.

Feedback is an improvement. Hopefully teachers give feedback to help a student on his/her learning path, to point out ways of improvement, to start a conversation with the student about ideas. Does the teacher expect a  response to the feedback or is it one way? What does the student do with the feedback? Feedback is often about the form and not necessarily about the content of a student's work. While this is important to becoming better writers (or scientists...) too much emphasis in our current education system is on those things which are easily measurable. After all, it's good for the testing industry which has a lot of money invested in this way of thinking.

Comments are conversation starters. I find as I write, it is the comments that drive me to write more. And what kinds of comments are most helpful - those that deal with the ideas not just the "I like the way..." I don't always find blogs the best place for these conversations. Sue Waters has been pushing us to go back and read the comments, to continue the conversations. In my experience, often once a comment is made that is the end. I have enjoyed using Google+ more because it is easier to go back and discuss, to follow a threaded discussion. Comments create connections

Comments are important because they help us examine our ideas. Mulling them over, revisiting them and remixing them because of the input of others as well as because of our own thoughts leads to clarity. But learning requires more than that and etmooc is a great place where self-reflection is essential. Not only do we have to think about ideas, but also about how much and how we will interact with them. This requires strategies.

And it is that self-reflection that is most important. Julie Balen shared a post on How Metacognitive are You. Self-reflection is involves setting goals, thinking about strategies to meet those goals and always revisiting and refining both the goals and the strategies. We all need a tool kit of strategies to help us learn in a variety of situations. Learning isn't just about the skill we are acquiring or the knowledge we are assimilating, but it is about the processes that get us there. Still working on those... but then life is about always learning.


  1. Hi Susan

    Comments that are made don't have to be the end of it. The challenge is moving people from seeing writing posts as the important part of blogging to realising that the interaction in comments is part of the entire cycle.

    This is where we need to model this process so we help develop others this skill. Some may not get it - but the more we model it the more chance we have of making the shift happen.

  2. Hi Susan

    Sorry for follow up comment. I've spotted part of the issue here. You haven't enabled subscribe to comments by email.

    I had same issue on my blog. Are you able to enable?

    Can you let me know if you reply to comment since I can't use email at the moment?

    1. I didn't fing a place to enable it, but I did find, if I changed the way people made the comments (e.g. not a popup window) Subscribe by email automatically appeared.

  3. Anonymous12:18 a.m.

    Hi Sue

    I agree that feedback tends to spark conversation and further movement. It's nice to know that there is someone out there who is also reflecting on our learning... I wonder what the impact of lurking on PLN's? thouhts

    1. I think there is a place for lurking. There are blogs I read and don't leave comments. Sometimes it is because I don't feel I have something to add to the conversation, other times because I need time to process. But that doesn't mean that no learning or thinking takes place.

      A PLN is personal - it is about your own learning and connections. By participating more actively you contribute for others, but not everyone is ready to put themselves out there. And all of this takes a lot of time - sometimes you just want a quick read and then back to f2f life!