Giving Better Feedback: Google Form Rubrics and AutoCrat

I feel an on-going tension between trying to get marking done within a reasonable time-frame and wanting to give students specific, detailed feedback so that they can improve their work. Having had some success with a checklist I created to give students more detailed feedback about their lab reports, I wanted to try something similar to give students more personalized feedback on their summative assessment tasks. While I have always used rubrics for marking such tasks, I find that students are more interested in the final number score than the highlighted number scores.

I happened upon a blog post by a teacher who used Google Forms to create rubrics (I tried to find the post to link here, but it seems that many teachers have blogged about the idea, here’s a good example). I decided to give it a try a few weeks ago and I haven’t looked back. The rubrics are set up like a survey: there is a field for the student’s name and a check-box to indicate which class they are in. Each of the assignment criteria is set up as a multiple choice question with the descriptors for each level of achievement as the possible answers.

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When I mark student work, I type in the student’s name and then select the descriptors that match their work. The feedback is automatically collected in a spreadsheet with a row corresponding to each student’s work.

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Once I have marked the whole class set, I use the AutoCrat script to merge each student’s feedback into an individualized letter. My students have been through this routine a few times, but early on I made sure to include prompts for reflection in the letter. After they had answered, or at least considered, questions like, “what did I do really well in this task?” and “what could I do better next time?”, students can come and see me for their number grade, if they want to see it.

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I have used this tool a number of times now, and I’m really happy with the results. The technical details were a bit tricky at first, but I got the hang of things quickly and now my time and energy are focused on what I think really matters: giving students specific feedback about their work. As I expected, some students pay more attention to their feedback than others, but this is certainly a step forward from the days when I would return student work and the discussion was all about comparing marks.

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