During our recent EnCoMPASS Summer Institute (#ESI14) Fawn Nguyen‘s comment that she’ll have 140 students this year, started me reminiscing. I, like Fawn does now, taught in southern California and having at least 140 students was normal. I usually taught 5 of our 6 class periods (at times I could have “sold” my sixth period but resisted it!) and classes could be as large as 36 students. That could mean 180 students but usually my load hovered around 150. It’s my normal mindset to think in terms of those numbers.

During #ESI14 we were talking about giving written feedback on the Problems of the Week (PoWs) either using the My PoW Work as a Teacher option of the PoWs or the EnCoMPASS software option and both of them can be daunting experiences if you are faced with 140 expectant students. Why didn’t I get feedback? When are you going to look at my work? Why did you write to her and not to me? Those are a few of the questions I can imagine students asking between the time they submit their work and when I promised they would have feedback … and, of course, the worst are the sad faces!

Here are some ideas I have for keeping sane!

Feedback Buddies
[During the Institute we talked about Revision Buddies (page 175 in Max's book, Powerful Problem Solving) and this idea can be built on it.] If you’re doing problem-solving activities in pairs, for any given problem give feedback to Student 1 of the pair. This cuts the amount of feedback in half for any given problem [70].

Group Buddies
If 70 is too great a number to handle, consider grouping pairs of Feedback Buddies and having groups of 4. Give feedback to Student 1 of the group. This cuts the amount of feedback in quarter for any given problem [35].

With either of the ideas for Feedback Buddies or Group Buddies, you would give feedback to Student 1 for Problem 1 and then Student 2 for Problem 2, etc.

Random 7
I’m thinking that if Fawn has 140 students and she has 5 class periods then she as 28 students in each class. I’m also thinking that she might use groups of 4. So, what if she used a Fast Random Number Generator app to come up with 7 students who would be receiving feedback on the PoW. She would give those seven students feedback and that’s how the groups would form to have conversations about her feedback and how they should use it to revise/improve their work. [If she happens to prefer groups of 3, then that would be Random 9 instead!) [35]

Random 3
This might be a way to start just because it’s VERY manageable for the teacher and it can be used to introduce the idea that you’ll be giving feedback and it might lead to conversations about what the process is and what the expectations are. Once the students have submitted, randomly choose 3 students’ work from any one class. (I wouldn’t pick a low, medium, high submission — I would do it randomly … or … I might not even pick one of my students’ solutions but instead lift a solution from the Teacher Packet and use it to generate your feedback!). [3] or up to [15] if each class is different.

I’d love to hear from you about other ways you might have thought about to handle giving feedback to help all of your students. I’m also curious to know when/if you try any of these ideas, how things went!