Formative in Large Classes

March 9

This activity was very hard, actually. Because so many of the resources that are available focus on providing summative feedback.

As someone very invested in technology and believe in the benefits of incorporating technology into classes in order to get plenty of information and process said information as quickly as possible. While most of the applications available provide summative feedback, it is possible to repurpose them for formative feedback. I do think formative and summative feedback can exist on a spectrum, and to look at summative as a step when trying to figure out exactly how students are processing and remembering information.

Tophat, for example, allows for students to contribute onto a digital board in response to a question. Because most (if not all) of the students are able to contribute answer to a question, and so it is possible to see the general gist of student thought. If someone is completely out of the loop or is completely off base, it is possible to correct or redirect that student. On a similar strain, I am a big fan of Kahoot, which allows for surveys and could be starting points for discussion. What is particuarly good about Kahoot is that it will provide analytics for the class responses, and thus it is possible to look over the class and make targeted feedback and changes when necessary. This is especially true when you can see recurring patterns in student thinking, or when a whole bunch of students have a misconstrued information. While it isn’t as flexible as Tophat in terms of responses, it is able to process student responses faster than a conventional method. While I have seen professors incorporate things like Twitter and Remind into their class plans, I found that these specialized applications are better able to target student interests.

When I was at the University of Toronto, I had an instructor who incorporated multiple ways for students to interact with him and with other students in case there are accessibility needs. He would allow for students to drop off post-it notes with questions and concerns and he could either respond to the class or privately. The important thing is being flexible, and being able to adopt to student needs and concerns. Post-It recently released an app that allows people to take pictures of various post-it notes, and allows you to organize it via colour, allowing the classroom to integrate both paper and technology. While I personally prefer the purely technological models because it provides analytics and allows for instant one-on-one communication, the paper model means only the professor needs access to technology in order to process all of the information.

I do, however, think there is nothing that is quite able to provide the formative feedback that intensive, personal work is able to provide. But some of the ways to cut back on the amount of comments it may be necessary to leave to each students may be to comment on patterns that you’ve seen in the class’s work, and provide individual remarks on the student’s papers. The University of Toronto, infamous for its large classes, would often rely on this practice even in tutorials, in order to provide some uniformity in student experiences.

See you on Friday.


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One Response to Formative in Large Classes

  1. jonrozhon says:

    I completely agree with you on TopHat, Shu. Hopefully, over the coming years, more technological feedback solutions become available to instructors. Thinking with my MBA hat on, you should really make an effort to stay on top of these developments. In any organization, the people who are thinking about new stuff and who find new ways to leverage the new stuff — well, those people are valued more than the folks who punch the clock everyday and simply get their work done. I don’t want to get all neoliberal on you, but this is just something I thought I should mention as you embark on what will be, undoubtedly, a brilliant career!
    BTW, about larger classes, I think you have made a wise choice for your education in not going to Toronto for your PhD. You have the opportunity at Calgary to attend smaller classes (like this one) and to get to know your profs well. In the end, it’s all about taking the reins on your own education, and you can do that here.

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