Feedback Principles

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Extensive feedback and the resulting revision of pages is hugely important in developing high-quality pages and to student learning. Each location can develop its own feedback system, but here are some principles that, based on previous observations, seem especially helpful in creating a system that runs smoothly and is most useful for students.


Basic Structure:

  • It works well for students to be the ones deciding when their pages are ready for feedback.
  • All pages should eventually go through Anna or Chris, as they are responsible for making sure that our content and writing standards are implemented uniformly throughout the site. Thus, the process can be seen as cycles of on-site revision and feedback alternating with feedback from Anna and Chris.

Increasing autonomy over time:

  • Especially early in the summer, students should probably get significant feedback both from on-site instructors and from Anna or Chris before fine-tuning pages, since feedback will often call for significant content and structural revisions.
  • Students' confidence and ability at providing feedback seems to increase as the summer goes on, and students are encouraged to increasingly rely on each other for support. Complementing this, Anna and Chris may place a heavier role in feedback towards the beginning of the summer than they do towards the end.

Multiple sources of feedback

  • Students seem to like having at least one instructor they know they can reliably solicit for help with mathematical content, one from whom they can obtain writing and layout help, and if possible, one they can ask for technology help.
  • Concurrent feedback from multiple sources has both advantages and disadvantages. Some things to keep in mind are:
    • Often, but not always, more advanced students prefer working with feedback from multiple sources at the same time, while less advanced students prefer feedback from one source at a time.
    • Concurrent feedback from multiple sources can enrich a discussion, but it's important that no one's voice get drowned out.
    • One way to neatly divide labor is to have feedback on writing and layout come from one source while feedback on mathematical content comes from another, with these sources possibly changing or switching roles at different points in the revision process. Some richness of discussion, however, is lost if labor is divided this way.

Written vs. in-person feedback

  • It can be helpful to provide early feedback in person, since large structural considerations are often much easier to explain in person rather than in writing. This early feedback also usually requires a substantial chunk of time.
  • Follow-up or less complicated discussions can often be achieved through written feedback alone or, if the instructor is on-site, through spontaneous conversations.
  • Even in-person discussions should be summarized by someone in writing, otherwise key points can easily be forgotten. Also, written records of feedback are invaluable in later project evaluation.

Feedback content

  • Especially early in a page's development, it's good for morale to comment on good aspects of pages, not just on suggested changes.
  • Students often benefit from both specific comments (e.g. "each time you introduce a function, be clear what the domain is") and broad ones (e.g. "reorganize this section and make it more clear what the main point is"). Giving specific examples of a broad comment (e.g. "the main point seems to be XX, but it's just buried in the middle of the paragraph") or grouping specific comments into broad categories can be useful.
  • It seems that some students do fine getting many suggestions in a single round of feedback, especially if the comments are written. If a student becomes less careful with feedback as volume increases, or often needs several tries to implement a suggestion well, it may make sense to stick to only a few suggestions at any one time.
  • Reviewing the Checklist for writing pages is a good way to make sure that certain aspects of a page are not overemphasized while others are ignored.

Organization of written feedback

It's easy to lose track of which pages need feedback or to lose track of one of the many feedback threads on any one page. These principles seem to work well for helping avoid these problems:

  • Keeping each page's current status (e.g. "Abram has left feedback, 6/30" or "Iris is awaiting feedback, 7/5") is really helpful. See here for an example
  • It works well to have feedback and discussion on a page take place on the page's discussion page. Some ways to help keep track of the inevitably many threads of discussion include:
    • Put different discussions under different headings, but if possible, grouped by type of issue (layout, terminology, structure, etc.)
    • Strikeout, hide, or in some other way clearly sequester discussions that are resolved. Don't delete them!
    • See Talk:Brouwer_Fixed_Point_Theorem as one example of this organization.