Undergraduates “fighting for feedback”

February 6, 2008

The University of Pennsylvania‘s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, recently included a student-written piece on the lack of feedback in higher education. The article is called “Fighting for Feedback,” and it is a show stopper.

If we want to talk about accountability and outcomes assessment, what greater measure is there than students receiving feedback from their professors? David Kanter’s article begins,

The first time I got a paper back from a professor here at Penn, I was a little confused.

Other than a few perfunctory, illegible comments found scribbled in the margins, insightful, constructive criticism was nowhere in sight. I thought (incorrectly, I suppose) that I would receive extensive feedback on each assignment. I soon learned that unmarked papers and vague comments were the norm.

This is a message we’ve heard over and over again. It isn’t a Penn thing. It isn’t an Ivy League thing, or a private school thing. It’s just the old paradigm of pushing information at students rather than helping them discover knowledge for themselves. Some of us are more talented pushers than others, and can make that mode of education work through charisma and talent. But the majority of experiences we’ve all had in our educational careers are closer to what David describes than a true dialogue over issues and ideas. Read the rest of this entry »