How does feedback help students

how to give student feedback and how to give feedback to student teachers
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HOW TO Gi E Effective Feedback TO y Ou R STu DEn TS Susan M. Brookhart Education v A teacher’s feedback on student schoolwork can be a powerful force for learning—if it contains a helpful message and is delivered with certain considerations in mind. But what kind of content makes a feedback message helpful to a student? And what kinds of strategies work best for delivering feedback? In How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, author Susan M. Brookhart answers these questions by describing important elements HOW TO Giv E of feedback content (focus, comparison, function, valence, clarity, specificity, and tone) and strategy (timing, amount, mode, and audience). Grounded in what researchers have learned about effective feedback, the book provides practical suggestions and classroom examples that Effective Feedback demonstrate what to do—and not do—to have a positive impact on students. In addition to general guidelines for good feedback, readers will learn what kinds of feedback work best in the various content areas TO y Ou R STu DEn TS and how to adjust feedback for different kinds of learners, including successful students, struggling students, and English language learners. Done well, feedback has a two-pronged effect, addressing both cognitive factors, by helping students to understand where they are in their learning and where they need to go next; and motivational factors, by helping them develop a feeling of control over their own learning. Taken together, these factors explain why learning how to give effective feedback should be at the top of every teacher’s to-do list. BROWSE EXCERPTS FROM ASCD BOOKS: hp://w tt ww.ascd.org/books 19.95 u .S. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Many ASCD members received Alexandria, Virginia USA this book as a member benefit upon its initial release. BROWSE EXCERPTS FROM Learn more at: ASCD BOOKS: www.ascd.org/memberbooks www.ascd.org/books STUDY GUIDE ONLINE Susan M. Brookhart Brookhart_2.indd 1 8/14/08 3:14:20 PM1 Feedback: An Overview Feedback: An Overview Feedback says to a student, “Somebody cared enough about my work to read it and think about it” Most teachers want to be that “somebody.” Feedback matches specifi c descriptions and suggestions with a particular student’s work. It is just-in-time, just-for-me information delivered when and where it can do the most good. This book is intended to help teachers provide such feedback to students. The focus is on feedback that comes from a teacher to a student and is based on student work. In the context of the book, the term feedback means “teacher feedback on student schoolwork.” Important as they are, responses to student behavior are not considered here. F Feedback as Part of Formative Assessment eedback as Part of Formative Assessment Feedback is an important component of the formative assessment process. Formative assessment gives information to teachers and students about how students are doing relative to classroom learning goals. From the student’s point of view, the formative assessment “script” reads like this: “What knowl- edge or skills do I aim to develop? How close am I now? What do I need to do next?” Giving good feedback is one of the skills teachers need to master as 1 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 1 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 1 8/27/08 12:08:52 PM 8/27/08 12:08:52 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students part of good formative assessment. Other formative assessment skills include having clear learning targets, crafting clear lessons and assignments that com- municate those targets to students, and—usually after giving good feedback— helping students learn how to formulate new goals for themselves and action plans that will lead to achievement of those goals. Feedback can be very powerful if done well. The power of formative feedback lies in its double-barreled approach, addressing both cognitive and motivational factors at the same time. Good feedback gives students informa- tion they need so they can understand where they are in their learning and what to do next—the cognitive factor. Once they feel they understand what to do and why, most students develop a feeling that they have control over their own learning—the motivational factor. Good feedback contains information that a student can use, which means that the student has to be able to hear and understand it. Students can’t hear something that’s beyond their comprehension; nor can they hear something if they are not listening or are feeling like it would be useless to listen. Because students’ feelings of control and self-effi cacy are involved, even well-intentioned feedback can be very destructive. (“See? I knew I was stupid”) The research on feedback shows its Jekyll-and-Hyde character. Not all studies about feedback show positive effects. The nature of the feedback and the context in which it is given matter a great deal. Good feedback should be part of a classroom assessment environment in which students see constructive criticism as a good thing and understand that learning cannot occur without practice. If part of the classroom culture is to always “get things right,” then if something needs improvement, it’s “wrong.” If, instead, the classroom culture values fi nding and using suggestions for improvement, students will be able to use feedback, plan and execute steps for improvement, and in the long run reach further than they could if they were stuck with assignments on which they could already get an A without any new learning. It is not fair to students to present them with feedback and no opportunities to use it. It is not fair to students to present them with what seems like constructive criticism and then use it against them in a grade or fi nal evaluation. 2 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 2 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 2 8/27/08 12:08:52 PM 8/27/08 12:08:52 PMFeedback: An Overview W What the Research Shows hat the Research Shows The fi rst studies and theories about feedback are almost 100 years old and arose out of the psychological perspective called behaviorism (Thorndike, 1913). Positive feedback was considered “positive reinforcement,” and negative feedback was considered “punishment.” Both reinforcement and punishment affect learning; thus, feedback was theorized to be effective. The problem with this theory is that not all feedback actually is effective. More recently, scholars have tried to tease out, from a large body of research on feedback that has accumulated over the intervening 100 years, what makes some feedback effective and some ineffective (Bangert-Drowns, Kulik, Kulik, & Morgan, 1991; Butler & Winne, 1995; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). Other researchers have concentrated on describing the characteristics of effective feedback (Johnston, 2004; Tunstall & Gipps, 1996). Educational theorists no longer explain learning with behaviorist theories about stimulus-response connections. More recent studies recognize the role of the student in the feedback process. They study the kind of feedback given and the context in which it was presented. What we now realize is that the message sent is fi ltered through the student’s perception (infl uenced by prior knowl- edge, experiences, and motivation) as it becomes the message received. The student’s job is to make meaning from schoolwork, not to respond to stimuli. Making meaning requires using and controlling one’s own thought pro- cesses. This is called self-regulation. Butler and Winne’s (1995) research review showed that both external feedback (such as teacher feedback) and internal feedback (such as student self-evaluation) affect student knowledge and beliefs. Together they help students with self-regulation: deciding on their next learn- ing goals, devising tactics and strategies to reach them, and producing work. An important point here is that teacher feedback is not teacher regulation. Teachers can’t “make” students focus on or learn something. Teacher feedback is input that, together with students’ own internal input, will help the students decide where they are in regard to the learning goals they need or want to meet and what they will tackle next. 3 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 3 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 3 8/27/08 12:08:52 PM 8/27/08 12:08:52 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students Kluger and DeNisi (1996) did a meta-analysis (a quantitative summary of results) of studies of feedback. Their overall fi nding was that the average effect of feedback intervention on performance was .41. This means that across all the studies, groups receiving feedback on average outperformed their respec- tive control groups by .41 standard deviations—the equivalent of moving from the 50th to the 66th percentile on a standardized test. However, more than 38 percent of the effect sizes from the various studies that went into this .41 average were negative—that is, showed that control groups outperformed feed- back groups. The effects of feedback depend on the nature of the feedback. Hattie and Timperley (2007) reviewed these and other works to synthesize a model of feedback that focuses on its meaning. Their review used the lens of formative assessment questions (Where am I going? How am I going? Where to next?), which they call “feedback questions.” Thus, they recognized the impor- tance of feedback in the formative process. Feedback can be the information that drives the process, or it can be a stumbling block that derails the process. Hattie and Timperley (2007) propose a model of feedback that distin- guishes four levels: (1) feedback about the task (such as feedback about whether answers were right or wrong or directions to get more information), (2) feedback about the processing of the task (such as feedback about strate- gies used or strategies that could be used), (3) feedback about self-regulation (such as feedback about student self-evaluation or self-confi dence), and (4) feedback about the student as a person (such as pronouncements that a student is “good” or “smart”). The level at which the feedback is focused infl u- ences its effectiveness. Feedback about the qualities of the work and feedback about the process or strategies used to do the work are most helpful. Feedback that draws students’ attention to their self-regulation strategies or their abilities as learners can be effective if students hear it in a way that makes them realize they will get the results they want if they expend effort and attention. Personal comments (“Good girl”) do not draw students’ attention to their learning. F Feedback Strategies and Content eedback Strategies and Content Taken together, these three major reviews have much to say about how you, the teacher, can give good feedback. Figure 1.1 summarizes the strategic 4 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 4 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 4 8/27/08 12:08:52 PM 8/27/08 12:08:52 PMFeedback: An Overview Figure 1.1 Feedback Strategies Feedback Strategies Can Vary In . . . In These Ways . . . Recommendations for Good Feedback Timing • When given • Provide immediate feedback for knowledge of facts (right/ • How often wrong). • Delay feedback slightly for more comprehensive reviews of student thinking and processing. • Never delay feedback beyond when it would make a difference to students. • Provide feedback as often as is practical, for all major assignments. Amount • How many points • Prioritize—pick the most important points. made • Choose points that relate to major learning goals. • How much about • Consider the student’s developmental level. each point Mode • Oral • Select the best mode for the message. Would a comment in • Written passing the student’s desk suffi ce? Is a conference needed? • Visual/demonstration • Interactive feedback (talking with the student) is best when possible. • Give written feedback on written work or on assignment cover sheets. • Use demonstration if “how to do something” is an issue or if the student needs an example. Audience • Individual • Individual feedback says, “The teacher values my learning.” • Group/class • Group/class feedback works if most of the class missed the same concept on an assignment, which presents an opportunity for reteaching. choices for feedback and makes recommendations for each based on the research. Notice that the suggestions depend on context: the characteristics of your students, the assignment, and the classroom atmosphere. There is no magic bullet that will be just the right thing for all students, all the time. While you are deciding on a feedback strategy, you are also, of course, deciding what it is that you want to say to the student. Figure 1.2 summarizes 5 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 5 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 5 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM 8/27/08 12:08:53 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students Figure 1.2 Feedback Content Feedback Content Can Vary In . . . In These Ways . . . Recommendations for Good Feedback Focus • On the work itself • When possible, describe both the work and the process—and • On the process the their relationship. student used to do • Comment on the student’s self-regulation if the comment will the work foster self-effi cacy. • On the student’s • Avoid personal comments. self-regulation • On the student personally Comparison • To criteria for good • Use criterion-referenced feedback for giving information about the work (criterion- work itself. referenced) • Use norm-referenced feedback for giving information about • To other students student processes or effort. (norm-referenced) • Use self-referenced feedback for unsuccessful learners who need • To student’s own past to see the progress they are making, not how far they are from performance (self- the goal. referenced) Function • Description • Describe. • Evaluation/judgment • Don’t judge. Valence • Positive • Use positive comments that describe what is well done. • Negative • Accompany negative descriptions of the work with positive sug- gestions for improvement. Clarity • Clear to the student • Use vocabulary and concepts the student will understand. • Unclear • Tailor the amount and content of feedback to the student’s devel- opmental level. Specifi city • Nitpicky • Tailor the degree of specifi city to the student and the task. • Just right • Make feedback specifi c enough so that students know what to do • Overly general but not so specifi c that it’s done for them. • Identify errors or types of errors, but avoid correcting every one (e.g., copyediting or supplying right answers), which doesn’t leave students anything to do. (continued ) 6 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 6 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 6 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM 8/27/08 12:08:53 PMFeedback: An Overview Figure 1.2 Feedback Content (Continued) Feedback Content Can Vary In . . . In These Ways . . . Recommendations for Good Feedback Tone • Implications • Choose words that communicate respect for the student and the • What the student will work. “hear” • Choose words that position the student as the agent. • Choose words that cause students to think or wonder. the kinds of choices you have about the content of your feedback and makes recommendations based on the research. These aspects of feedback strategies and content are described further in Chapters 2 and 3, which also provide examples of what they mean. For now, the important point is that the characteristics listed in Figures 1.1 and 1.2 are aspects of feedback that research has identifi ed as important. Further, these aspects are things you can control as you give feedback to different students for different purposes. F Feedback and Grading eedback and Grading Several studies, going back 50 years, have investigated the effects of grades versus comments on student performance. Page (1958) is the classic of this type of study. Page found that student achievement was higher for a group receiv- ing prespecifi ed comments instead of letter grades and higher still for students receiving free comments (written by the teacher). Writing comments was more effective for learning than giving grades. Other researchers replicated Page’s study many times over the years, with an interesting result: sometimes these results were replicated, and sometimes they weren’t (Stewart & White, 1976). More recent research has identifi ed the problem: in these early studies about comments, the “feedback” was evaluative or judgmental, not descriptive. Page himself described the prespecifi ed comments as words that were “thought to be ‘encouraging’ ” (1958, p. 180). Evaluative feedback is not always helpful. The nature of “comment studies” changed as the literature on motivation began to point to the importance of the functional signifi cance of feedback: 7 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 7 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 7 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM 8/27/08 12:08:53 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students how does the student experience the comment—as information or as judgment? Butler and Nisan (1986) investigated the ef fects of grades (evaluative), com- ments (descriptive), or no feedback on both learning and motivation. They used two different tasks, one quantitative task and one divergent-thinking task. Students who received descriptive comments as feedback on their fi rst session’s work performed better on both tasks in the fi nal session and reported more motivation for them. Students who received evaluative grades as feedback on their fi rst session’s work performed well on the quantitative task in the fi nal session but poorly on the divergent-thinking task and were less motivated. The group that received no feedback performed poorly on both tasks in the fi nal session and also were less motivated. The reason this study is of particular interest here is that Butler and Nisan’s experiment illustrates several of the aspects of feedback discussed in this book. First, the comments that were successful were about the task. Second, they were descriptive. Third, they affected both performance and motivation, thus dem- onstrating what I call the “double-barreled” effect of formative feedback. And fourth, they fostered interest in the task for its own sake, an orientation found in successful, self-regulated learners. Butler and Nisan’s work affi rms an observa- tion that many classroom teachers have made about their students: if a paper is returned with both a grade and a comment, many students will pay attention to the grade and ignore the comment. The grade “trumps” the comment; the student will read a comment that the teacher intended to be descriptive as an explanation of the grade. Descriptive comments have the best chance of being read as descriptive if they are not accompanied by a grade. L Looking Ahead ooking Ahead This chapter has outlined feedback strategies and characteristics of feedback content that research has found to affect student learning, motivation, or both. Chapter 2 gives examples that will help you choose effective feedback strategies. Chapters 3 and 4 are about how to fashion your message so that it communicates what you intend in a helpful manner. Chapter 5 is about help- ing students use feedback. Using feedback is a skill that can be taught, and it doesn’t come naturally to all students. 8 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 8 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 8 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM 8/27/08 12:08:53 PMFeedback: An Overview These principles about feedback strategies and content apply to both simple and complex assignments and to all subjects and grade levels. Different subjects emphasize different kinds of assignments, so the opportunities and needs for feedback do differ by subject. Chapter 6 contains some content- specifi c examples of good feedback. Chapter 7 then offers some suggestions on how to tailor feedback to the needs of different students. 9 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 9 11220-01_CH01_REV.indd 9 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM 8/27/08 12:08:53 PM2 T Ty ypes of Feedback and Their Purposes pes of Feedback and Their Purposes Chapter 1 identifi ed the types of feedback strategies and content choices that research has found to be important for student achievement. This chapter illustrates these types of feedback with classroom examples. It is important to know what your choices are—what tools are in the box. Knowing what tools are available is the fi rst step in choosing the right one for a specifi c student or learning target. Examples of both good and bad practices are given for each, with the exception of clarity, specifi city, and tone. These “word choice” options are addressed in Chapter 3, which is specifi cally about the language you choose for feedback. C Choosing Feedback Strategies hoosing Feedback Strategies As noted in Chapter 1, feedback strategies can vary in several dimensions: tim- ing, amount, mode, and audience. Let’s look at each of these in turn. T Timing iming The purpose of giving immediate or only slightly delayed feedback is to help students hear it and use it. Feedback needs to come while students are still mindful of the topic, assignment, or performance in question. It needs to come 10 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 10 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 10 8/27/08 12:04:28 PM 8/27/08 12:04:28 PMTypes of Feedback and Their Purposes while they still think of the learning goal as a learning goal—that is, something they are still striving for, not something they already did. It especially needs to come while they still have some reason to work on the learning target. Feedback about a topic they won’t have to deal with again all year will strike students as pointless. A general principle for gauging the timing of feedback is to put your- self in the students’ place. When would students want to hear your feedback? When they are still thinking about the work, of course. And when they can still do something about it. Figure 2.1 summarizes some examples of good and bad timing of feedback, and the following paragraphs elaborate on one example. Good timing: Returning tests and assignments promptly. A teacher gave a multiple- choice test, scored it later that day, and returned the test to students the next day. After she handed back the scored tests, she spent class time going over the answers. In educational psychology terms, this is “knowledge of results.” Even this simple feedback about the outcome is good—and is good to do promptly. You may want to provide prompt feedback but feel too busy or over- whelmed to do so. A tip that works for some teachers is to make a special effort to catch up with feedback responsibilities. You can’t be prompt with today’s work if you still have last week’s on your desk. But once you are caught up, you may fi nd the pace is the same except that you are dealing with more recent work. Figure 2.1 Feedback Timing Purpose: • For students to get feedback while they are still mindful of the learning target • For students to get feedback while there is still time for them to act on it Examples of Good Feedback Timing Examples of Bad Feedback Timing • Returning a test or assignment the next day • Returning a test or assignment two weeks after it is • Giving immediate oral responses to questions of fact completed • Giving immediate oral responses to student mis- • Ignoring errors or misconceptions (thereby implying conceptions acceptance) • Providing fl ash cards (which give immediate right/ • Going over a test or assignment when the unit is over wrong feedback) for studying facts and there is no opportunity to show improvement 11 11 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 11 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 11 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM 8/27/08 12:04:29 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students Bad timing: Delaying the return of tests and assignments. We can all remem- ber those times in school when we thought, “Is she ever going to return that report?” I encourage you to recall those incidents and the accompanying feel- ings of frustration and of being ignored and use that energy to spur yourself to return your students’ work promptly. It should be your regular practice to do that, and students should know it and be able to count on it. If students do experience regular, timely feedback, they will most likely be understanding if an emergency arises and you take longer than usual to return an assignment. Amount Amount Probably the hardest decision to make about feedback is the amount to provide. A natural inclination is to want to “fi x” everything you see. That’s the teacher’s-eye view, where the target is perfect achievement of all learning goals. For real learning, what makes the difference is a usable amount of information that connects with something students already know and takes them from that point to the next level. Judging the right amount of feedback to give—how much, on how many points—requires deep knowledge and consideration of the following: • The topic in general and your learning target or targets in particular • Typical developmental learning progressions for those topics or targets • Your individual students In addition, making a judgment about the amount of feedback requires con- sidering all three simultaneously. Your feedback should give students a clear understanding of what to do next on a point or points that they can see they need to work on. This requires you to know your students; for some students, simply getting clarity and improvement on one point would be suffi cient, whereas others can handle more. In order to know what should come next, dig into your knowledge of the topic (what else should they know?) and your teaching experience with the topic (what typically comes next?). Try to see things from the student’s-eye view. On which aspects of the learning target has the student done acceptable work? Which aspects of the learning target would the student benefi t from improving upon next? Are any particular assignments coming up that would make it wiser to emphasize one point over another? Is there any particular point that you and the student have a 12 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 12 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 12 8/27/08 12:04:29 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM PMTypes of Feedback and Their Purposes history about? For example, if you and the student have been working hard on neatness, maybe a comment about handwriting would be right on target. If not, that comment may not be as useful as some of the other things you could say about the work, and you might choose to skip that and concentrate on some- thing else. Figure 2.2 gives examples of good and bad choices about how much feedback to give, and the following paragraphs illustrate the point. Good amount: Using the Goldilocks principle. The Goldilocks principle says, “Not too much, not too little, but just right.” Appropriateness varies case by case, and here is just one illustration. The student work in Figure 2.3 is taken from the item bank for 4th grade writing of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The task is typical of the kind of in-class assignments many students do. Suppose you were this 4th grader’s teacher and the student had written this paragraph for practice in class. This paragraph is not optimal 4th grade work. However, the fi rst and most important thing to point out is that the paragraph is clear and makes sense. That’s true, and it’s noteworthy. Probably the second main response to this as a piece of writing is that it is simple: it doesn’t have much detail or variety in sentence structure. But if the student could think of how to add details, they would probably be included. An initial feedback comment might be this: This is clear and makes sense to me. Figure 2.2 Amount of Feedback Purpose: • For students to get enough feedback so that they understand what to do but not so much that the work has been done for them (differs case by case) • For students to get feedback on “teachable moment” points but not an overwhelming number Examples of Good Amounts of Feedback Examples of Bad Amounts of Feedback • Selecting two or three main points about a paper for • Returning a student’s paper with every error in comment mechanics edited • Giving feedback on important learning targets • Writing comments on a paper that are more volumi- • Commenting on at least as many strengths as nous than the paper itself weaknesses • Writing voluminous comments on poor-quality papers and almost nothing on good-quality papers 13 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 13 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 13 8/27/08 12:04:29 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students Figure 2.3 4th Grade “Lunchtime” Paragraph Writing prompt: Describe what lunchtime is like for you on a school day. Be sure to tell about your lunchtime so that someone who has never had lunch with you on a school day can understand where you have lunch and what lunchtime is like. Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, sample items, 2002-4W17+1. Available: http://nces.ed.gov/ nationsreportcard/itmrls/ This comment describes the positive features of the work in relation to the learn- ing goal: clarity and meaning in writing. The next bit of feedback might be this: More details would make this more interesting. If you move the sentence about the lunchroom being big right after “noise,” you give one reason for the noise. Can you think of others? Can you describe what the noise sounds like? For some students, it would be advisable to stop here, with one positive com- ment and one suggestion for improvement. For students who are interested in further work on the goal of adding more details, the following comment would also help: Can you give some examples of the “good food” besides milk and salad for the teachers? What kinds of food do you eat at lunch? What foods do your friends eat? 14 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 14 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 14 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM 8/27/08 12:04:29 PMTypes of Feedback and Their Purposes All of these comments are probably best delivered orally because, although they are simple, they take more words to make clear than the student has writ- ten. Even better, deliver these comments at the student’s desk while pointing to the respective places in the paragraph. Once the paragraph is much better, the student can proofread it for spelling and other mechanics. Even though this is an example about how much feedback to give, this is a good opportunity to point out some other features of these comments. Notice that the comments not only name the criticism (that the paragraph is very simple and lacks details) but also model strategies the student would use to add details, without telling the student what those details should be. They encourage the student to think, and they imply that those next steps are within the student’s repertoire of experience and understanding. Bad amount: Focusing only on mechanics. We all know teachers whose fi rst inclination would be to use a contrasting-color pen (red, of course, is the favor- ite) and fi x the mechanics. Sald should be salad. There should be a period after teachers. That sort of thing, although important, does not advance the student as a writer as much as the comments about the writing process. Mode Mode Feedback can be delivered in many modalities. Some kinds of assignments lend themselves better to written feedback (for example, reviewing and writ- ing comments on students’ written work); some, to oral feedback (for example, observing and commenting as students do math problems as seatwork); and some, to demonstrations (for example, helping a kindergarten student hold a pencil correctly). Some of the best feedback can result from conversations with the student. For example, rather than telling the student all the things you notice about his or her work, you might start by asking questions such as these: “What are you noticing about this?” “Does anything surprise you?” Peter Johnston’s book Choice Words (2004) has more discussion of how to ask questions that help students help you with feedback. Decisions about whether to give the feedback orally or in written form should be partly based on the students’ reading ability, especially for younger students. Could they understand what you would write? Such decisions are also partly based on opportunity. Talking with students is usually best, because 15 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 15 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 15 8/27/08 12:04:29 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students you can have a conversation. However, you don’t have the time to talk with every student about everything. Figure 2.4 presents examples of good and bad choices about the mode of presentation for feedback, and the following para- graphs provide further illustrations. Good choice of mode: Taking advantage of a teachable moment. Recall that the feedback for the “Lunchtime” paragraph in Figure 2.3 formed the basis for a conversation with the student around two relatively simple points: the paragraph was clear, and more details were needed. These two comments are task-related feedback. Providing additional feedback about the process of get- ting details into the work would involve more words than the student wrote. Realistically, you can’t write that much, and even if you did, it would have the effect, visually, of overwhelming the student work. Besides, this feedback could initiate a helpful, brief conversation with the student at a teachable moment. Therefore, providing the feedback orally is a good decision. Bad choice of mode: Writing things the student can’t comprehend. Unfortu- nately, the following example of a bad choice is a true story. An elementary teacher assigned her class to practice handwriting by copying a story from the board. A little boy with a mild learning disability was having diffi culty transfer- ring the story he was to copy from the board onto his paper. Using a bright purple marker, the teacher made a slash on his words each time a letter was Figure 2.4 Feedback Mode Purpose: • To communicate the feedback message in the most appropriate way Examples of Good Feedback Mode Examples of Bad Feedback Mode • Using written feedback for comments that students • Speaking to students to save yourself the trouble of need to be able to save and look over writing • Using oral feedback for students who don’t read well • Writing to students who don’t read well • Using oral feedback if there is more information to convey than students would want to read • Demonstrating how to do something if the student needs to see how to do something or what something “looks like” 16 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 16 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 16 8/27/08 12:04:29 8/27/08 12:04:29 PM PMTypes of Feedback and Their Purposes added or omitted and wrote addition or omission over it. In one place, the student wrote og instead of go, and the teacher circled it and wrote reversal. The little boy did not know the words omission and reversal. All he was able to con- clude from the purple slashes and strange words was that the teacher thought his paper was bad. He did not understand what he had done or how he might fi x it. What he learned from that feedback was that he was weighed in the balance and found wanting. If that happens too often, students give up. A Audience udience The example about the bad choice of mode also provides a lesson about audience. Like all communication, feedback works best when it has a strong and appropriate sense of the audience. Feedback about the specifi cs of individual work is best addressed to the individual student, in terms the student can under- stand. That simple act is powerful in itself because, in addition to the information provided, it communicates to the student a sense that you care about his or her individual progress. (“The teacher actually read and thought about what I did”) So the fi rst point about audience is “Know whom you’re talking to—and talk to them” If the same message would benefi t a group of students, providing feedback to the class or group can save time and also serve as a minilesson or review session. If you speak to the whole class when only a subset needs the feedback, you can use the students who have mastered the concept as the “more experi- enced peers,” helping you demonstrate the concept or skill. Or you can pull a group aside to give some feedback while others are doing something else. You can also mix individual and group feedback. For example, imagine you had just collected a writing assignment in which you found many students had used bland or vague terms. You might choose to give the whole class some feedback about word choice, with examples of how to use specifi c, precise, or vivid words instead of dull and uninteresting ones. You might couple that with some thought-provoking questions on individual students’ work: “What other words could you use instead of big? “How could you describe this event so someone else would see how terrible it was for you?” Figure 2.5 presents examples of good and bad choices about the audience for feedback, and the following paragraphs elaborate the point. 17 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 17 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 17 8/27/08 12:04:30 PM 8/27/08 12:04:30 PMHow to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students Figure 2.5 Feedback Audience Purpose: • To reach the appropriate students with specifi c feedback • To communicate, through feedback, that student learning is valued Examples of Good Choice of Audience Examples of Bad Choice of Audience • Communicating with an individual, giving information • Using the same comments for all students specifi c to the individual performance • Never giving individual feedback because it takes too • Giving group or class feedback when the same mini- much time lesson or reteaching session is required for a number of students Good choice of audience: Using a group approach for a math demonstration. A middle school math teacher found that about a third of the class had trouble on a homework assignment. The problem concerned drawing perpendicular bisectors. Some students were trying to measure the line segment and divide it in half instead of using a compass to draw circles around the endpoints and then connecting the points of intersection. The teacher decided that group feed- back was in order, having seen the same kind of trouble on several papers. First she told the class that she was going to go over constructing a perpen- dicular bisector because she had noticed that some people had had trouble with the homework and she wanted everyone to learn how to draw a perpendicular bisector. That comment did two things. First, it identifi ed what she was going to do as feedback; students now knew that she was responding to their work. If the teacher had fi rst launched into the demonstration without noting that it was feedback, many students would not have made the connection. The lesson would have just been “what we’re doing today.” Second, the comment reminded stu- dents of the learning target, making the feedback purposeful (in effect, saying, “We have a learning target, and here’s what you need to do to get closer to it”). Next, the teacher drew a line segment labeled AB on the board and asked, “What should I do fi rst to draw a perpendicular bisector for line segment AB?” She called on a student who she knew had done it successfully to come to the 18 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 18 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 18 8/27/08 12:04:30 PM 8/27/08 12:04:30 PMTypes of Feedback and Their Purposes board and demonstrate. As he did each step, she asked the class, “What is he doing now?” When that problem was done, she left it in view and drew another line segment labeled CD next to it. She called on a student who had not been successful with the homework to come to the board and demonstrate, coaching as necessary so that he completed the task successfully. Then she passed back the homework papers. Students who had perpendic- ular bisector problems marked incorrect were invited to do them again. Home- work, after all, is for practice. By the time the chapter test rolled around, almost all the students showed that they did indeed know how to draw a perpendicular bisector. Bad choice of audience: Math demonstration gone wrong. The scenario just described seems simple enough. But what if the teacher had found that only two of the students in the class were incorrectly measuring and then marking off half to bisect lines? The minilesson described would probably bore most of the class. Reteaching the whole class would be a bad choice of feedback audi- ence in that case. The audience for additional feedback on bisecting lines— identifying measuring as an unproductive approach, providing reteaching and additional problems for practice—is those two students. Individual feedback would be the way to go. In traditionally organized classrooms, the teacher could provide that feedback in student conferences or during seatwork. Written feedback and examples on the students’ homework papers followed by further opportunities to practice in class with the teacher or with peer tutors could also be helpful. In classrooms where fl exible grouping and other differentiated instruction methods are used routinely, feedback could be given in the context of small-group work on bisecting lines. C Choosing Feedback Content hoosing Feedback Content Choosing the content of your feedback involves choices about focus, compari- son, function, and valence. Because any feedback message embodies choices about all of these things at once, the examples address all four factors together. This section will help you decide what to say in your feedback. For suggestions about how to say things (word choices that affect the clarity, specifi city, and tone of your feedback), see Chapter 3. 19 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 19 11220-02_CH02_REV.indd 19 8/27/08 12:04:30 PM 8/27/08 12:04:30 PM

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