Mike Zemansky kind of took my post yesterday in a different direction yesterday when he mentioned that he uses pencils for the most part. That got me thinking about mistakes and goodness knows I’ve made so many.
Everybody makes mistakes—that’s why they put erasers on pencils
I’m sure that it does back even further but the one strong remembrance of when mistakes were significant in my life goes to spelling tests. If memory serves correctly, we’d had spelling tests every Friday morning. It was truly binary; either you were right or you were wrong. There were no grey areas.
Throughout elementary school, there was a distinct difference in the use of pens and pencils. Pencils were required in mathematics because mistakes were routinely made. Only pens were allowed in English class and the writing had to be double spaced. When errors came along, we were required to learn and use proofreading tools and mark things up. Even revisions never went away as you were required to draw a line through the old with a rule and write in the new part above.
In secondary school, the use of a pencil became really apparent when I started taking programming classes. A whole new type of mistake appeared! In other classes, things were right or wrong and the occasional mistake would come back with some written feedback. In programming class, there was a whole different set of feedback. In most cases, errors messages can be cryptic and actually helpful. (if you already know what the problem is) Probably the most helpful is the message indicating that you’re missing a semi-colon.
But, mistakes are what makes education. After all, if you think about it, if there were no mistakes, there would be no need to go to school to learn, learn how to do things right, and how to learn from mistakes.
Over the years, we’ve become considerably more sophisticated. For the most part, we’ve got away from
X means you’re wrong – take it from there and get it right next time.
Instead, we celebrate providing constructive feedback as a way to identify when things aren’t 100% perfect and gently steer students toward a correct solution. Technology has allowed for the insertion of notes or even audio feedback on a work in progress. Those who have been teaching online have been doing this for years and may have even had a workshop or two to learn the technique. Those who have never taught online or at a distance, are learning this whole new approach to providing feedback in real time. It’s another example of building the ladder while climbing it.
During these times, accurate and specific feedback will be so helpful. Unlike being face to face in the classroom, you may not get a second or third chance to get it right. I suspect that it is a skill that teachers are learning and refining on a daily basis. There is another concept that is so important as well. It’s timeliness. We’ve all dreaded those marathon marking sessions knowing that students come in the next day expecting to get results. After all, they wrote the test. It’s not really in their realm of reality that their work isn’t the only thing that the teacher has to assess and provide feedback for!
I suspect that the pedagogues are busy on research articles like “Online assessment – best practices”. In the meantime, there are people that have to go to Zoom tomorrow. What advice can you provide from your expereinces?
This probably won’t help but I found it interesting anyway.