Learning Community (PD) Schedule
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Feedback That Helps
“Whether or not feedback is effective depends on what students need to hear, not what you need to say,” says consultant Susan Brookhart in this article in The Virginia Journal of Education (spotted in Education Digest). Here are her desiderata about feedback:
• Timely – The quicker the better, says Brookhart, so students get feedback while they still remember the assignment and why they were doing it.
• Identifying one or more strengths and at least one next step – Sometimes students aren’t aware of their strengths and need them reinforced, and they often need next steps pointed out. A teacher might say to a struggling student, “I see you skipped this line. It might help to keep your place with your finger.”
• Focused on students’ work and work processes, not on them personally – It’s not helpful to talk about how smart or lazy a student is. Talk about the work.
• Descriptive, not judgmental – The best feedback compares work to specific criteria or exemplars. With struggling students, the standard or exemplar might be so far from their current work that it’s intimidating, in which case it’s helpful to compare current work to earlier, less-developed work.
• Positive, clear, and specific – “‘Clear’ means clear to the student,” says Brookhart. “The tone of feedback, whether written or oral, should convey your confidence in the student as a learner. It should not sound like giving orders.” Struggling students need to focus on one or two small steps they need to take to improve, and simple, clear vocabulary is important. With more successful students, specific praise is better than “Great job” – for example, “This is a great paper. I especially appreciated the way you made a chart to summarize your information and then discussed it point by point. That made it really clear.”
• Check for understanding – “Do you understand?” is not enough. Better to ask, “What is the most important thing you see here?” or “What is the very next thing you’re going to do on this paper?”
“Tailoring Feedback” by Susan Brookhart in The Virginia Journal of Education, February 2010 (spotted in Education Digest, May 2011, Vol. 76, #9, p. 33-36); as quoted in Marshall Memo #383.