Sunday, July 27, 2014

Incorporating Feedback - Part 1

One thing that I want to incorporate more deeply into my teaching this year is feedback & revision. Here is my thinking so far:

What is feedback? 

Grant Wiggins defines feedback here as “information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.” Similarly, Developmental Designs describes “reinforcing language” as language that lets the student know what has been done that was successful. Feedback fosters independence in students because it empowers students to be able to determine what is successful/how to meet the goal and then do it. It is preferable to praise (ex: “Good job”) which forces students to rely on the teacher to know whether or not they have met the goal and is not replicable. It is also more effective than stand-alone advice (ex: “Try making a table”) which may seem like it comes out of nowhere as it is not explicitly related to the goal.

There is a debate about whether feedback is by nature evaluative (See here). More important to me is that after reading a piece of feedback, the student should be able to identify what they did that helped them reach the goal and what they did that didn’t help them reach the goal. They then should use this information to replicate or improve their performance. These next steps could be explicitly stated by me, but with good advice, students should be able to identify the next steps even if not explicitly stated.

It is also worth considering when a description of work (not in relation to an explicitly stated goal), has its merits. This could set students up to identify the goal for themselves (which may or may not match the teacher goal, depending on the framing of the project) and whether or not what they have done supports the goal.

This leads me to a continuum of feedback from most scaffolded to least scaffolded:

In general, if the next steps the student determines do not match the feedback, there are two main questions to consider:
- Is the student using a different way to get to the goal?
- Is the student prioritizing a different goal?

My Guiding Principles

As I think about using feedback in my class, I have decided on some guiding principles for myself:
  1. Talk about the work/product, not the person. This reinforces growth mindset and generally people are more receptive to you critiquing their work and not themselves.
  2. Less is more. Feedback should be focused and not overwhelming for the students. For narrative feedback, this would mean one, maximum two actionable steps for the students.
  3. Feedback is most effective when students will have time to revise/respond to the feedback in class. Revision may eventually become hw, but this would be after there is a routine around and habit of using feedback for revision.
  4. Timely feedback and revision is motivating for students. It is at the core idea of formative assessments (Of course, in an extreme feedback could be too prompt and not enable students to do their own analysis. But I think this is a good general rule). Therefore, I am going to have revision days once a week or once every two weeks, depending on how it goes.
  5. Giving feedback on everything (both the teacher-time and class-time it would require) is unreasonable. Therefore, I will only give narrative feedback on entries in students’ Math Thinking Record journals. I will give feedback through SBG scores and brief comments on assessments (quizzes, tests, projects). Students will then revise, practice, and/or re-assess standards based on the feedback.

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