Thursday, November 6, 2014

Getting Students to USE Feedback

Many teachers spend hours offering written feedback to students. The purpose of that feedback is usually very well-meaning. It might be that we want to foster deeper thinking. Maybe we want to help them correct mistakes. Or we might be pointing out information that will be useful for them on the next assignment. But it often doesn't seem that students accept our feedback in the same vein we offered it...if they even bother to look at it.

I hate to break it to you, but you may be wasting your time leaving all that feedback. I know, you're thinking, "What? But I have to let them know what to improve on!" And that is true, but one key element of feedback is timing. First of all, if you are giving feedback on an assignment that also has a grade....sorry, that time you spent is down the drain. When students get back a summative assessment, they are only concerned about the grade. And why should they care about your feedback to make it better? After all, the opportunity to make it better is gone if it has a grade. Another issue of timing is how long after the work do the students receive feedback? If you wait too long, giving feedback is practically worthless.

Some teachers cause "feedback overload" in their students. (You like that? I just made it up! If it already exists somewhere, I wasn't plagarizing...I just read a lot!) If you ask your students to address every single thing that is wrong with their work, it can be overwhelming. You have learning targets for the assignment, right? Your feedback should only address the learning targets. The purpose of feedback is to move the learning forward so unless you tie your feedback to the learning target, they won't pay attention to it.

I like to make my students be metacognitive when they use my feedback. To do that, I use feedback cards. On these cards, I leave my feedback...often I have given them the same feedback on their writing. Below is an example of feedback I gave a student. Our learning target was "I can use revision strategies to improve my writing." When I write ...where indicated, that means I have actually marked in their rough draft where I want them to try the strategy.

Students have to use the strategy I suggested. We have a variety of ways for them to show revision. They can use sticky notes. They can cut their story up and reassemble it on aother sheet of paper. They can revise in their google drive. But then they have to fill out the other half of the feedback sheet. This is where the metacognition comes in, because they are not only using the strategy, but they are also explaining how they used it.

The example below shows that the student decided to revise the strategy that I had indicated she already did well with. Then she worked on the strategy I asked her to try. And she even asked a peer for a writing conference so he could tell her how well she used the revision strategy.

Because I get back their writings as well, it is easy to tell if they really did use the feedback I gave them. In the following example, you can see that the feedback instructed the student to think about the focus of his story and to remove unnecessary information. And you can see from his paper that he did just what he said.

Students get used to seeing the feedback cards. They know that the strategy I give them is going to move their learning along the continuum of the learning target and they are excited to learn more and to be able to show the progression of their learning. Seeing kids get excited about learning is really what teaching is all about. Here is one more example....just because I love sharing my kids' work!