Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 14: What is feedback and how do you give it to students.....


      This is one area of my teaching that I have been really working on over the last five years or so. This partially started because I was frustrated with students who could answer a multiple choice question or even a matching question, but then could not master the more complicated short answer or essay. I needed a way to check this before I gave the test. The other reason is the district began to move towards having common formative assessments as a means for students and teachers to get and give feedback. So the discussions and reading and training began. The road it took me down was truly an eye opening experience for me.
     Feedback should not be given only on a final assessment like a test or an essay. By then, it is too late. Yes, it is crucial that students receive that feedback on that summative assessment, but if that's the only time you are giving it, then that is not the best thing for student learning and for you as a teacher. Feedback is crucial all throughout the learning process. Feedback can be as simple as a half sheet of paper with a simple question. Students answer and you read and respond. Feedback can be a simple question on the Smartboard and students raise their hand. Then go through it as a class and have someone explain why they thought the answer was what they chose. One challenge in giving students feedback is to make it timely and meaningful.
     I have always struggled with finding a way to give feedback in a timely fashion. When you have 150 students, giving immediate feedback can be daunting. Even a simple question on a half sheet can take a long time to read and put comments on, even if it's one comment per sheet. And if you are trying this 2-3 times a week like a good feedback regiment should, that equals 450 half sheets. Oh boy! I firmly believe that feedback done right is one of the best ways for students to learn. It allows you to correct and guide before the students are assessed. I just had to think of a way to do it quicker and more effective. So here is the direction I am heading to improve upon my student feedback.
     First, I want to thank all my #sblchat friends on Twitter for great suggestions on how to implement the use of standards based grading. One of the hallmarks of using SBG is teacher feedback to students. I have been given great ideas on how to make feedback more meaningful and timely. The other factor that is making feedback more timely and meaningful is the inclusion of tech into my classroom. This opens a wide array of digital tools to allow students to receive feedback. Socrative and Infuse Learning are two great digital formative tools that give students immediate feedback and allows me to collect data that I can use immediately once the students are done. We can go over it in class to see their right/wrong answers and examine the question. I have started this especially in my AP American Government class (S/O to my #apgovlove students!!) where they leave in December and I won't see them before the test in May. This is ambitious but I am going to do it anyways. I will have the students use Socrative to take quizzes on each unit (as many as I can) so they not only get feedback, but I can collect the data and use the textbook self guided on line resources to customize a review for each student! Crazy? Too ambitious? Probably. I am going to do it anyways. Go big or go home right?
     Another way that I am trying to improve my feeback to students is the use of Google Classroom. I know I keep mentioning that, but I love the assignment set up and the ability of students to turn stuff in and then correct it. I can put comments on not only each students individual assignment, but then on their stream feed as well. They can read the comments, I get an update via email that the comment has been "resolved" and I can then re-adjust the grade. Google is great for feedback in that way. Also, for some of the longer essays, I am going to continue to use Kaizena to give feedback on longer essays or writing for all classes. It syncs well with anything on your GDrive account, the interface is easy to use, and there was a great update over the summer to make it even better. I highly recommend it.
     Blogs and forums. I had used these in the past but really never in a feedback type fashion. Two sites I like are Kidblog and Proboards. They both allow you to post a questions and not only can you give faster feedback, you can set it up so just the other students in the class can see AND make comments on their peers. This is great way to foster peer to peer feedback that you can monitor. I got the great idea for this from Mark Barnes book Role Reversal. He has a ton of wonderful ideas on how to give good feedback. The other great tip is simple: rearrange your room so you are not the focus, the students are. I have made my room more open so I can walk around and give suggestions and thoughts as the students are working. They can help each other out and it does foster more one on one conversations, many of which are in the form of feedback. It has been a great way to improve on helping students to learn that their learning is important, before they get to that summative assessment at the end of the unit. 

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