Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Meaningful Comments: Who?

In Meaningful Comments: Why?, I looked at why good comments are important and the ways they can propel learning.  In Meaningful Comments: How?, I shared the discussions in my classes on how to make good comments: ask questions, expand on ideas, and share your story.  I was reminded in that post by commenter Bruno Winck that when you disagree with the author let them know by respectfully stating your thoughts.  Of course, this is in the hopes of both of you expanding your understanding.  When that happens, it is important for the author to not take things too personally (and delete objectionary comments) but more, to see this as an opportunity to learn and grow.

In this post I want to focus on who should be commenting on each other's work.  In this connected world, work done by the student shouldn't just be seen by the teacher.

Students commenting on each other's work

Publicly commenting on another's work, as Tom Whitby commented in Meaningful Comments: How?, is a relatively new thing.  Other than in peer editing, some kind of gallery walk activity, or an audience-question-time after a presentation, it just isn't done in our classrooms.  Often student work is for the teacher's eyes only.  But I want to state that there is something meaningful about students commenting on other student's work.  When you have to make a meaningful comment, you have to understand both what the author is saying and how you feel and think about it.  The wheels have to turn.  I think all of us Ed blog readers and writers know the feeling: "This is a great post but I just don't have the energy to intelligently synthesize my thoughts and put them into words.  I'll just hit like."  Commenting requires committing valuable resources.

If your hope is to have a community of learners, then your students should be commenting on each other's work.  They need to learn together in a safe environment that promotes sharing.  They need to be involved in each other's learning.  Furthermore, it brings them to operate at the highest level of Bloom's taxonomy: analyzing, evaluating and even creating (their response).

[Bloom's Taxonomy photo, “New Blooms Pyramid“, by Andrea Hernandez licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.]

Teachers commenting on student work

I've talked a lot about teacher commenting in this series particularly on how it promotes student learning.  In the comment above, it is the teacher who gets to learn.  Either way, learning comes from the dialogue.  The initial post is a shotgun approach to learning; it is the comments that target in on personalized learning.  I would go as far as to say: if you find yourself having to choose between commenting on student work and grading it, I suggest you comment.  The comment propels learning while the grade puts an end to it.

Principals commenting on student work

In this connected world we live, right from his or her office, a principal can connect and encourage a student.  In fact, they need to get in on the action.  What a way to put one's finger on the pulse of what is going on in the classes but to read and comment on what the students are doing within their classes!

Parents, other teachers . . . really anyone

What an excellent learning conversation going on here...from one student's post.  A parent, two teachers, and several students propelling each other to do and to be better.  Parents having a window into what is going on in the class. Other Math teachers chiming in on the student's learning.  Students encouraging each other along in the material.  This is what being in a community of learners is all about.


In the hopes of more genuine comments for my students' work from those outside of the school, I thought that I would end this post with a learning opportunity.  Here is a Flipboard magazine of some of my students' blogs.  Please take a moment to check their digital portfolios out and possibly expend some energy and make a comment.  I know they would love to have some of your input into their learning.