I have avoided giving number or percentage scores on formative work for years; I prefer to give specific comments so that students know what they are already doing well and know what they need to do to improve before the summative task at the end of the unit. It makes perfect sense, right? The only problem is that specific comments take time – a lot of time – and because students often make similar mistakes, writing out similar comments for each student makes marking a class set of lab reports a painstaking (and hand-cramping) marathon.
Last year, I devised this checklist in order to speed things up a bit. Now, to mark a class set of lab report, I open a new word document and create a template with the criteria for the report listed in bullet points. As I read each lab report, I make a copy of the template, label it with the student’s name and then drag-and-drop the comments into the appropriate column. When I’ve marked all the reports, I print the document and staple the feedback onto each lab report.
There are a few things I like about this system:
- Marking lab reports is efficient: I can give detailed, specific feedback quickly.
- My marking is consistent: I’m giving each student feedback about the same things. I can also make sure that what I commented on in one lab report is reinforced in the lab reports that come later in the unit.
- Students get a checklist of what they can do to improve on subsequent lab reports. I encourage students to have the feedback slip in front of them when they are working on the next lab report so that they remember what they needed to improve. Sometimes I even require that they return the feedback from the first lab report when they hand in the second lab report so that I can see that they have applied the feedback.
- I have an electronic record of the feedback that each student has received over time. If I need to, I can take a look at the whole series to see if students are repeating the same errors or if their work has improved over time. This is really useful as a conversation-starter with the students themselves or at a parent-teacher interview.
I have found that this works particularly well with lab reports, since there are specific requirements that are consistent regardless of the topic, but this strategy could be applied in other tasks as well. If you have an idea, please leave a comment below!