Getting help and working with feedback

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The process of getting help and feedback and doing lots of revisions is hugely important in making good pages and in making this summer educationally valuable.

While you (collectively) can develop a feedback system that works for you, here are some principles that based on previous summers' experience, seem to help this process, which can get messy, to run smoothly.


Basic structure

  • Basically, you get to decide when you want help or feedback. When you are ready for feedback on a page, indicate as much (see "Organization of written feedback", below). When an instructor or peer has left feedback, they will indicate that they have done so.
  • Last summer's crew writes: "The instructors take the pain to read what you have written over and over again and you have the obligation to respond carefully. That does not mean everything they say is right; it means their advice is worth taking note of because they have worked on the project for many years now and what they have to offer can potentially save you loads of trouble."
  • Moreover, instructors are still responsible for "signing off" on pages, for the sake both of page quality and for the sake of you learning as much as possible (without becoming unhappy). Pages will also ultimately be reviewed by Anna and/or Chris, who are mostly off-site.

Increasing autonomy over time

  • Early in the summer, it's a good idea to get frequent feedback, largely from instructors, as feedback will often call for significant content and structural revisions. As the summer goes on, you will be able to count on each other and yourselves more and more (this is our hope, anyway).
  • Still, it seems to be a good idea for the whole summer to get nearly daily feedback on pages.

Multiple sources of feedback

  • You can choose whether or not you want concurrent feedback from several sources simultaneously. Different people have different preferences, so when you indicate that you want feedback, you can also indicate who and how many people you want feedback from. Some things to keep in mind are:
    • Having feedback from more than one person at once lets you compare and contrast opinions, but can also be confusing.
    • It often seems to work well to, at any one time, get help on mathematical content and details of writing from one person (often, Prof. Maurer) while getting big-picture writing and layout feedback from someone else (often, Abram or Anna).

Written vs. in-person feedback

  • It can be helpful to get early feedback on a page in person, as large structural considerations are often much easier to explain in sufficient detail in person than in writing. This early feedback also usually requires a substantial chunk of time.
  • Follow-up discussion or less complicated ones 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 feedback easily gets forgotten about, and it becomes to difficult for anyone else to later enter the same conversation. Also, written records of feedback are invaluable in later project evaluation.

Feedback content

  • When you give feedback, it's good to comment on good aspects of pages, not just on suggested changes.
  • Think about giving both specific comments (e.g. "each time you introduce a function, be clear what the domain is") and broad comments (e.g. "clean up the rigor in your proof") illustrated by specific examples
  • Reviewing the Checklist for writing pages is a good way to make sure that certain aspects of a page are 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 from Steve and Anna, 7/5") is really helpful. See here for an example
  • Feedback and discussion each page have taken 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.