How to let them know – Feedback to students

I’ve been thinking about feedback lately. As I endeavour to help my students become more self-managing and self-motivated, I am slowly moving away from the old ways I used to mark work and give students feedback, and yet, it is more important than ever for the students to be able to know how they’re going and where they need to go next and how they might get there. Until they are able to do this for themselves of course! Which is the ultimate goal. To do myself out of a job, right? Ha ha.

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I became pretty good in the past at the marking work routine. I had all my students books marked with a day of the week and I would check them on the day that was their assigned day and make comments on their work, giving them next steps to work on. This had limited success. Some students read the comments and paid attention and some probably just ignored it. If I’m honest, this became more of a thing I did to ensure that other adults could see that I was doing something to teach their children. The best times were when I got to give the feedback to the kids direct and discuss it with them – I wrote it down then too, but more as a record between me and the student I was talking too.

This was ok when I had 22 or 24 kids. That was manageable. It was even just manageable when I took to checking everyone’s writing book everyday and putting them into daily groups based on where they were up to in their writing. I also managed to keep tabs on the dreaded worksheet type activities I used (not too many, I promise) by having a “Finished work – to be marked” and a “Marked work – to be collected” box. But this is virtually impossible when I step into a classroom with 30 students. Particularly as now I’m looking at more personalised learning. Not everyone is doing the same stuff, which can be tricky to keep track of.

So, suffice to say, I was very pleased when Google Docs showed up and students could now share a document with me and I could comment on it directly. I love this. I know what I need to mark – it’s sitting there in my inbox. And being a pretty quick typer I can fire off a comment pretty quickly. Voila. I think this is awesome too because if students want feedback, they can send it to me and not waste time waiting in a line to speak to me. They can even do it at home.

Problem solved right? Well, yes, and no. How to make sure that all students are getting the feedback they need? How to make sure they are using it? How to keep track of who has some and who hasn’t? How to prove to others that I am actually giving feedback to students? Do my students even know what feedback is for crying out loud????

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This last week I showed my students this video:

Ron Berger – Austin’s Butterfly

I was put on to this video while reading Tait Coles’ book “Punk Learning” where Berger’s 3 key points for giving feedback were outlined. The book is great and I love this video and think the 3 simple steps are so easy for a student to follow and remember. They are:

When giving feedback –

BE KIND
BE SPECIFIC
BE HELPFUL

Again, simple right? I think so too. And those three things really sum up all you need to say and do when giving feedback.

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After that I decided I wanted some of the students thoughts on this feedback thing. I drew up a chart with 3 headings – 

How does Mrs Whyte give you feedback?

What do you want feedback on?

How would you like to get feedback?

Now, although I kept trying to encourage students to write down some responses, I actually only got about 5 students saying anything at all. Disappointing, but hey, sometimes kids are just surprised any teacher might be interested in what they have to say! The responses were a little lacklustre as well to be honest.

They all said I gave them feedback by talking to them or writing a comment. Most said they wanted feedback on homework (what?!!! This was a shock. I barely do homework and my dislike of it is fairly darned obvious). One person said reading, one said maths and another said technology. Fairly broad…One person did tell me that she did always understand when I told her when I’m talking about Maths, so that was good to know. All of them said they liked feedback in person and sometimes via computer. I loved the response that they wanted feedback surprisingly. I’m contemplating leaping out from behind the couch to give them their feedback next time.

All of this was interesting, but I feel like I need something else. This week I have created a simple survey on Google forms to get a bit more information from my students about what feedback they like, how they like it and what they understand about what to do with it. I’ll keep you posted about what they tell me.

I’m looking forward to working more on Google Classroom and Hapara to remain in contact with my students and give them feedback on their work. I have also been wondering if I could film some small clips of maths strategies (for example) and post them on our blog or Google Classroom space so students have them to watch anytime they need for support.

One other thing I’m going to try this week is the old-fashioned one on one conference. I’m not sure how long it would take me to see all my learners, but even if it was a 3 weekly rotation or something similar that would be an improvement on seeing a few people often and some rarely. I made a table to mark off when I’ve seen people to keep track and keep me honest. I tried one out last week and it went well. Me and a student talked reading and went through the standards in kidspeak from this Literacy Progressions website. I felt it went well and he has a better idea of what he needs to do next. We shall see.

When I was at the GAFE summit I saw Scott Mackenzie speak about what goes on at Hampden Street School and he spoke of doing this with his students. They now control their learning themselves, monitoring and keeping track of where they are at and working on what they need to do next. Something to aim for.

 

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How to let them know – Feedback to students

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