Friday, August 7, 2009

The value of formative feedback

It is a rainy evening so what a great opportunity to stay in and just relax! Well, I shouldn't say relax because within the next week I have a paper and a pathfinder due!

This past week I shared my pathfinder with a peer and with the instructor and did the same with a draft of the paper for the educational technology course. This is such a good practice! First of all it gave me an 'artificial' deadline and this forced me to get thinking about the projects. That extra week gives time to refine and produce a better thought out product in each case. Secondly, while the items were being reviewed, it gave me time away from both projects so my mind could clear and when I looked at them again I was seeing them with fresh eyes. A third benefit of the peer review process is being able to look at someone else's work and provide feedback to them. I do this all the time for students but rarely for peers. This helps to develop our own ability to read critically, not with a view to diminishing any efforts of our peers but to helping them improve based on how it reads/looks from a different perspective.

So while it is good to work on items individually and have them 'peer reviewed', it is also good to actually work in a group to produce a work like we did in class this summer with our wikis. When I started my MBA in 1997 I initially hated the concept of group work. One of the best experiences of my life was a business plan produced for a local company. I was the oldest so I was named the 'leader' of the team. The other three members were a young lady in her 20's, a 20 something Physical Education graduate and a student from overseas. I have to admit I did not think we would gel just because we were all so different but, man, we rocked as a team. Our skills were very was very personable and did all the interviews and discussions, one was more laid back but always provided insight and quiet observations, one was a whiz with numbers and budgets, and the other loved doing all the detail work of editing. That was one of the most positive and fun projects in that whole program. So my point? It is good to work alone sometimes and it is good to work in a group. But even when you work alone, you need formative input on your work.

A former teacher of mine put it well when he said that there will always be different levels of performance and areas of strength but an evaluation should not just be a one-time summative one,, there should be opportunities to improve along the way. Therein lies the benefit of peer review and group work for me.


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