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A solution to comment writing dread: video reflections

June 10, 2014

Writing comments/reports whatever you call them, it’s something many teachers dread—for many of us it involves writing thousands of words, doing hours of work, knowing they won’t be read for a week or more until after you write them, and in some cases, wondering if they’ll be read at all. I often find myself struggling to understand the audience and purpose of these comments—should I direct them to the students, or to the parents? Are the formative or summative? Sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to speculate about a student’s motivation or a cause for his or her actions. And even when I write my very best comments, I’m not sure I’m giving a student’s parents the clearest picture into what a student is learning in my class.

Here’s what I’d like for my comments to be. I’d like them to be part of a conversation. I’d like for students to have some input into to content of their comment. I’d like to give them specific feedback and advice on how to improve, and I’d like to emphasize and highlight the things that the student is doing best, and to have a clearer picture of what’s motivating the student.

Here’s an idea I had after my latest 20,000 word comment writing adventure. Why not ask students to make a video reflection before each comment writing period? I think I could ask each student to compose a 5 minute video showing me 3 things:

  • Show me an example from your work that shows strong understanding of a physics concept.
  • Show me and example from your work that shows improvement in your understanding of physics.
  • Show me an example from your work that shows a concept that you are still working to improve your understanding.

I could then ask students to comment on their work and study habits, goals and more. What I find most useful about this is that like screencasts, I think this video would paint a clear picture of that student in my class. Students who are doing well in the course would present clear and specific answers to the three points above, which vague responses would be one more indicator of struggle.

My comments could then be written reposes to these student videos, which would allow me to enter a conversation with the student and make specific comments on the understanding demonstrated in the video. Maybe one day, my comments could even be videos themselves.

So what do you think? At 5 minutes a video, it would take an hour and 15 minutes to watch all of the videos for my class (assuming I didn’t watch them at double speed). This seems like a reasonable investment for significantly improved comments.

I’d welcome any thoughts or suggestions you may have to ease the comment writing process.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2014 1:04 am

    How many hours of agony will it take a shy student to produce a 5-minute video?

    It would be better to ask them to write something anyway, as they probably need a lot more practice at writing than they do at making videos (based on the amount of writing they’ll be expected to make in future, compared to the number of videos that will be expected of them).

    • June 10, 2014 7:18 am

      At that point in the year, they will probably pretty adept at making short screencasts—I know of a few teachers who ask students to do video reflections about the text they are reading in the earliest stages, as a way to allow them to quickly begin to think about the text. I’m not looking for professionally polished videos, and I think the advantage a screencast offers is that a student can pull up an example of work and point to specific places that do or do not show understanding, something that is much harder to do in writing.

  2. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist permalink
    June 10, 2014 10:45 am

    I think this is a good idea, and you can help with gswp’s comment about shyness by really downplaying the “professionally polished” angle.

    Why this first instead of you doing videos first? When I switched to video feedback, it didn’t save any time, but my feedback was more thorough.

    • June 10, 2014 11:44 am

      Oh, I’d love to do video feedback, but our teacher comments (which are sent to parents) are all written at the moment.

  3. June 10, 2014 11:30 am

    Awesome idea here. I would really love to give students an opportunity to comment on their study habits, goals, etc. and have them connect that to their successes/failures in the classroom. The RS Dept. has done this in the past with a google doc survey, but never video! But to push back a little, how would you respond to someone who says, “All good and well, but the exam is meant to display these examples of understanding, improvement, and room for growth…” In other words, how do you see the conversation had between the video and written comment in response bringing that much more to the table than is already there?

    • June 10, 2014 11:44 am

      I think these videos would be especially useful for the midterm comment writing period, where I usually don’t have a comprehensive exam to refer to. I think I could also think of ways to adapt this for the comment writing at the end of the year, when I might ask them to describe a more holistic self-evaluation of their performance over the year.

  4. Lacey Roach permalink
    November 9, 2014 5:35 pm

    I think this is a great idea. Some shy students may not want to do it at first, but after the first few videos, it becomes easier for them. I know because I’ve had to do a lot of things this semester in EDM310 that were outside of my comfort zone. I think this type of feedback would be more useful to students. It gives them a chance to kind of defend their grade. Teaching should be more about helping students learn than giving meaningless assignments. If the students are getting anything from it, then what is the point? This is a great way to see how well you are actually reaching your students.

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