I just provided feedback to all my students who completed a school-wide Google Form assignment this week. My feedback was a simple greeting that also referenced what was written in their reflection section of the Google Form. It took me hours. Hours. No wonder teachers who give written/typed feedback say they have no time to create or adapt texts!?!
Now that we’ve gone remote courtesy of COVID-19, this kind of feedback is the only way to connect with students asynchronously (aside from a personalized video…which would take even longer than typing). Of course, in typical teaching contexts, this written/typed feedback usually includes corrections. Let’s take a closer look at this practice that’s sapping a lot of time…
Sure, it makes total sense. Students do something, and teachers give feedback. However, we’ve learned some things about language acquisition that are rather tricky, and unintuitive. So, for any given teaching practice that makes sense when it comes to learning, there’s a good chance it won’t make sense for acquisition. Corrective feedback is one of them. Here are a lot of studies showing that students need input, interaction, and exposure, not corrections.
However, even just a sentence or two that goes out to every student is enough to annihilate your planning time. Think about it. If it takes one minute to look at whatever a student did, and then write a sentence, that’s an hour of your time for 60 students. If you have 120 students, you’ve spent two hours writing each student one sentence, presumably in English. Now, how many sentences could you write in the target language right now in about two hours? Yeah.
But let’s be realistic. You didn’t actually have two hours to spend on all that (which is why you took school work home). Let’s say you have a solid 45 minutes of planning time each day. Skip written/typed feedback (better yet, stop assigning things that requires it in the first place!), now write for 45 minutes. I bet you have at least a paragraph, and probably a whole page of text after that time, maybe more. Maybe even formatted nicely, too! Now, compare that to the one sentence of what was probably English when providing individual feedback (especially if that feedback was corrective, not content-based). It seems clear what we should and shouldn’t be doing, no?
Interaction & Connecting
Yeah, here’s the rub right now. With the COVID-19 instruction scramble, we can’t provide feedback in the form of interacting and connecting in a live setting. In the classroom, that’s as easy as just looking at a student, or them all looking at you. In the classroom, we constantly give feedback. In fact, that’s one way to describe negotiating and/or establishing meaning. It’s instant feedback, and the same with authentic assessment (i.e. when you acknowledge signs of incomprehension and adjust in real time). In the classroom, you can even ask a single question, see a lot of hands raised, and then provide a batch of feedback just once. This can be just as personalized as if you wrote/typed it out to each and every student.
For now, we gotta deal with this kind of feedback in order to maintain some connection with students with asynchronous remote instruction. However, give that practice a real good second look whenever we get back into the classroom.