Making Feedback Meaningful for Students
Feedback. I hesitate to label this a “buzzword” because feedback isn’t a concept that goes out of style. However, it often feels like that is what it has become. Teachers know they should be providing feedback. Students know they should be receiving feedback. Administrators want to see that feedback is a component in the classroom. During observations and interviews and performance reviews, the term feedback is often tossed around as if saying the word invokes its use.
My concern is that the concept has gotten a bit stagnant since it is so much easier to provide feedback with current digital tools. Please don’t misunderstand, I love that teachers and students can collaborate and comment on each other’s work in many apps for learning. It is just easy to fall into a comfortable routine of what providing feedback can look like.
For example, when my students would draft in Google Docs, I could leave comments on places for them to revisit or think about in order to improve the writing. I could even correct errors in the writing with an explanation or reference for them to review. This is not a bad way to provide feedback.
But if this is the only type of feedback I ever provide my students, I am still falling short. Feedback isn’t just about a teacher telling a student what to fix. It should also provide students an opportunity to think about their learning and apply it in the future.
According to Fast Company, as adults, students will need to know how to ask for feedback strategically. This is a skill that “will help [them] meet expectations and avoid the miscommunications that waste everyone’s time and put your prospects for growth at risk.”
Feedback goes beyond a summative or formative academic accounting of what students learn. Part of what we do as educators is to encourage students to grow and be better. The article observes that “employees who effectively solicit feedback from management, and implement that criticism wisely, inevitably end up becoming the top performers in their fields.” Don’t we want this for all of our students?
Students will be hesitant initially. They are not used to asking for feedback. I’ve taken the suggestions in the Fast Company piece and modified them a bit for the classroom:
- Ask at the appropriate time and place-we set up tutoring times. Why not make a portion of tutoring an opportunity for students to ask for feedback? Of course, many teachers also plan for time to conference during class. Part of the assignment could even be having students ask for specific feedback.
- Go in with a specific agenda and document the feedback-Let’s just follow the ole “I do,” “You do,” and “We do” model. Initially, the teacher can create the “agenda” through a shared document (you could even push this through Google Classroom) that models the best type of questions to ask for feedback-I do. Students complete the document to prep for the conference. Eventually, the teacher provides part of an “agenda” with a couple of items asking the student to fill out the rest of it using the models they have seen-we do. By the end of the year, the student is creating his/her own “agenda” and sharing it with the teacher ahead of time so they can fill it out together during the conference-you do.
- Put the feedback to work at the end of the conference, have the student create a plan of action. What will s/he do with the feedback? When can the teacher check in to see how it is going? Perhaps there is an opportunity to reflect on learning by blogging or simply sending an email to the teacher with the student briefly describing how it is going. You could even have a student FutureMe.org an email to themselves with their plan of action, and when the email arrives they reflect on how they have put the feedback to work. Make feedback an ongoing process-feedback is a part of every teacher’s classroom. It already is an ongoing process.
The greatest part is that if students become comfortable enough with this process, they could start using it with each other. Peer feedback will become stronger and more purposeful.
How might this look in a class:
During a book study, students blog about their reading and then share blogs with each other through Flipgrid.
Their video post, which also links to their blog, explains their thinking behind their blog and verbally shares their “agenda” for feedback; and Flipgrid is such a great tool because you could link to whatever you need feedback on across subjects. This idea could also work really well in Seesaw or with a Padlet.
As the teacher, I can definitely continue to comment on the learning objectives mentioned earlier. That kind of feedback is important, but I don’t want it to become so commonplace that students begin ignoring it. By allowing students to ask for the type of feedback that matters the most to them, we are helping them build skills they can take into the “real world” and it becomes meaningful to each student. Talk about personalized learning!
iTeam Lead-Instructional Technology
Richardson Independent School District
Google Certified Educator⭑Seesaw Ambassador⭑