Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feedback to Students

Tuesday night’s #edchat discussion about feedback got me thinking about a number of things. I wanted to reflect upon those things in what I hope will not become a completely rambling post. For me, there are a number of ways in which feedback could and should be used. In addition, there are a number of tools that are used to provide feedback. Personally, I am a visual person so I made a chart to help me understand my own thoughts.



Type of Feedback

Explain

Positives

Negatives

My thoughts

Grades

I think we all know what these are…

It gives kids an indication of where students are from a grading
standpoint. It gives a concrete placeholder on their learning based on
predetermined grading scale.

Grades do not motivate students to do better or learn more. Grades
are not always clearly articulated and are often based in an antiquated
system of assessment. Grades are often an indication of behavior more so than
learning. When grades are given it is often the end of learning.

I am
realistic to know that my students need grades to prove their learning to
parents, colleges, etc. Getting rid of grades may not be possible, but
looking at how, what, and when we grade would be a great first step.

Standardized Test Scores

These are those lovely state and federally mandated tests we give.

I may get shot for saying this but they do provide some level of
accountability that subject matter is being taught. These tests do aim to
ensure that various curriculum areas are being addressed on a large systemic
scale.

These tests are often used as be-all end-all indicators of student
learning which they are not. They are one piece of the pie and should be treated
as such. They cost millions of dollars and take away time that could be used
on learning.

I know nobody likes these tests and I agree. However, if you get rid
of standardized testing completely, where is the accountability for teachers?
There should be away for our students to provide evidence of their learning
in an easier, cheaper, and more effective way.

Conversation

This can be done in a formal meeting or informal conversation with
student about work, behavior, life, etc.

This is very personal and builds a great relationship with students.
It gives them more feedback than can often be captured in a grade or in
written feedback on an assignment.

This is often very time consuming and can be subjective in nature.

This really works well if you have a strong and trusting relationship
built on a mutual respect. Personally, I talk with each kid as often as I
can. These conversations are not always about work but you can learn a lot about
a student and where they are coming from in regular short conversations.

Written comments on student
work

These are annotated notes that a teacher makes on a piece of work
that a student has turned in. The format of these can change depending on the
work turned in.

Written comments are much better than a simple letter grade or score.
If done properly can give good feedback on what a student is doing well and
where areas of growth are.

This can be time consuming as well and can also be subjective.
Another negative is written feedback can be taken out of context or be misinterpreted.

I use written feedback and it can be a great tool. Key to it being
successful is making sure it is straight forward and honest without being judgmental.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Those twice a year meetings with parents and teachers to discuss
work, grades, progress, etc.

Chance to sit with parents and discuss student’s progress and get
their feedback as well. Can give feedback directly to parents that may not
always being getting home through a student.

These are often driven by grades and do not happen regularly enough
to have a lasting impact on student learning.

While parent conferences are good, teachers should be in more regular
contact with parents to provide feedback than twice a year.

Incentives

This type of feedback could be a sticker, award, candy, or other
external motivator

Some kids will work hard for a Jolly Rancher… This can be a a good initial motivator to
get things started but has little lasting effects.

Some kids will work hard for a Jolly Rancher…and that is the only
reason they are working hard. It programs a kid to work for rewards instead
of for the learning.

I am not a fan of this because it causes kids to work for the sake of
a “prize” rather than for learning or growth.

With all of these forms of feedback there are a few things that must be kept in mind:


• It must be ongoing and constant.

• It must lead to more learning and not be an end point.

• It should happen before, during, and after learning is taking place.

All types of feedback have their place at some level in education. The trouble we get in is when we use one piece of feedback such as grades, or test scores, to try to illustrate the sum of a child’s learning. Feedback should be a process not a product.
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