Introduction

Since our first moments on this planet, we have been using feedback to learn about the world around us. From hearing yourself play a wrong note on the piano to a baseball coach guiding your swing, feedback is everyone’s fundamental learning process: try, compare, try again.

Kaizena extends this natural approach to learning into formal education. After students finish a draft of a paper or project, they use Kaizena to request feedback from peers or educators. Reviewers make highlights on student work, commenting with voice comments to convey tone and emotion, embedding Youtube videos to explain complex concepts, or tracking skills such as “thesis” or “paragraph transition.”


Synopsis

Objective

Our mission is to increase the speed and quality of feedback students receive on their work.

Speed: When you rode a bike for the first time, you probably fell off after a few feet. Now imagine if you had to wait two weeks before trying again. As ridiculous as this sounds, it is typical for students to wait two or more weeks to receive feedback on their papers or projects. If we can increase the speed of the feedback loop, we can increase the speed of learning.

Quality: grades are technically a form of feedback - they provide some indication of performance as compared to ideal outcome. For simple tasks that can be reduced to “right” or “wrong,” grades are an adequate form of feedback. However, the world is increasingly complex, and simple tasks are inadequate to prepare students for the future. Quality feedback means providing students with detailed information on their performance compared to an ideal outcome. If educators can assign more nuanced tasks because Kaizena makes it possible to provide quality feedback, we can better prepare students for a complex world.

Approach

Our objective is to increase the speed and quality of feedback students receive on their work; our approach is to make feedback efficient for educators.

We found educators spend between ten and fifteen hours per week providing feedback on student work. One of our educators in Australia reports Kaizena reduces this by forty percent (http://blog.kaizena.com/post/116414426605/katherines-story-how-kaizena-helped-to-reignite).

We have three feedback features, all of which save educators time: voice comments, embedded lessons, and skill tracking.

Voice comments: everyone speaks up to 75% faster than typing. Over thirty years of research (https://kaizena.com/research) show the efficiency and efficacy of verbal feedback on student work.

Embedded lessons: educators can save their voice comments for reuse, or embed YouTube videos directly in student work to explain complex concepts.

Skill tracking: a quick way to identify the rubric criteria students demonstrate in their work. We automatically create the rubric summary as educators identify evidence of rubric criteria in student work.

Engagament

65,998 students joined Kaizena Sept 2014 - July 2015
352,702 documents uploaded Sept 2014 - July 2015
2994.38 hours of verbal feedback recorded Sept 2014 - July 2015
A new educator signed up for Kaizena every fifteen minutes in Q2 2015

Impact

A recent review of research on teaching shows feedback is more effective than reducing class sizes, one-on-one tutoring and teaching assistants (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/toolkit-a-z/).

Here’s what students think of Kaizena, from a survey conducted by one of our educators:

“I really like the feedback that you gave on Kaizena because not only were you able to tell us our mistakes but you were able to tell us the reasons behind each of our mistakes. I appreciate all the time that you put into our essays, I learned a lot from your feedback. :)”

“It was much easier to understand what problems I had on my essay.”

“It was extremely useful…it felt like you were sitting right next to me and helping me with my writing. I know I can always go to tutorial if I want this kind of feedback and collaboration, but oftentimes there are other kids who also need your help in the classroom, or I have to do something else during to tutorial. Thanks for the massive the amount of feedback you gave. “

“I loved Kaizena. It made it much easier for me to fully understand the feedback you gave me — before, when it was just notes on a paper, the explanation for why something was wrong wasn’t always clear, but with the audio feedback you were able to give more personalized, detailed comments that were VERY helpful.”

We recently raised a $900,000 seed round from some of the world’s most visionary leaders in technology and education, including Reach Capital (formerly NewSchools Seed Fund), Horizons Ventures (private venture arm of Li Ka-shing), and Jeff Weiner (CEO LinkedIn).

Next Steps

Our mission is to increase the speed and quality of feedback students receive on their work.

We’ve realized there is an upper bound to our current approach: regardless of the features we create for educators to more efficiently provide feedback on student work, there is still only one educator per hundred-or-more students. This is a massive disparity.

We envision students receiving feedback within minutes of posting their work to Kaizena. To accomplish this, we need to change the model from educator-centric feedback to peer-centric feedback.

Our next step is creating a feedback community around our feedback utility, where students can post their work to relevant topics, such as “Hamlet” or “Electrostatics.” In exchange for receiving feedback on their own work, students review someone else’s work. The original author rates the reviewer’s responses, ensuring quality remains high.

With this community, we believe we can scale the speed and quality of feedback students receive on their work.

Other Information

Other - Kaizena (web application)
Other - Research review showing feedback is more effective than reducing class sizes, one-on-one tutoring and teaching assistants (sort by "Impact" column)
Other - A collection of research discussing the efficacy of feedback, formative assessment, and voice comments
Other - Interview shortly after raising our seed round
YouTube Video - 1 minute Kaizena demo
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