Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Void

Yesterday, my senior seminar was doing a proofreading exercise on their final papers.  The papers were formally due yesterday, too, though I'd said I'd happily accept them until whatever time I left the office Friday afternoon.   Indeed, I also told them that while I'm happy with neatly handwritten corrections to proofreading problems, they could also take their work home and make the changes electronically, and then turn in the hard copies until Friday. 

Still, about a third of the papers got turned in yesterday.  A few didn't because there was a proofreading problem the student just didn't want to hand correct.

In our casual conversation towards the end of the class session, when I told them that I'd be handing their papers back during the final exam period, and that we'd discuss what they learned, a couple of them commented on how unusual it is to get final papers back, and how happy they are about it.

They talked about turning in papers they'd worked really hard on and not getting any feedback or even knowing how they'd done on the paper.  They find this understandably frustrating.

From the professorial point of view, of course, it's way easier to read the paper, put a grade on, add it to the record, and move on than it is to read the paper, think about what might be useful feedback, give feedback, put a grade on, add it to the record and then move on.  It can take me as long to think about and give useful feedback as it takes to read the paper and put a grade on it.  Longer, even, because giving useful feedback is intellectually difficult work, often.

And, as a professor, I know that if half of my students will never pick up their paper, but I've put feedback on it, I've wasted a whole lot of time.  And I can't predict which half.  So what a lot of people do (including me, at times) is make papers due during finals, so there's no way anyone can expect to get them back during finals week, and then tell students that I'll give them feedback if they'll come to my office and ask.  And very few students do that.  The thinking is that it will be easy to give that feedback if they do come, but of course it isn't easy, and I tended to begrudge the time.

My solution nowadays is to try to return papers during finals week.  But that means I have a hard, hard week ahead.

I'd better get to it.

1 comment:

  1. I hear all the time that students don't get feedback on their final papers. I think that's awful. I have yet to succumb to the easy way out, and always give feedback on their papers. They don't even have to pick them up, either. I just comment on our LMS, and put their grades up there. I still write marginal comments, so if they want to see those, they have to pick up their papers, but the overall narrative comment is in the LMS for them (and me) to see forever. (Or at least, for them, until they graduate. Just yesterday I looked up the comments I wrote on a paper over a year ago, and there they were in the LMS. It was nice to have that option.)

    If I didn't have the option of the LMS, I would just email them their comments. I did that prior to becoming dependent on the LMS.