Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Effective Feedback Promotes Thinking

“Good Job!” “Excellent Work!!” “Way to Go!” were phrases I used frequently, either verbally or written in the margins of an assignment. As a young teacher, I assumed the more praise I gave to students, the more they would be motivated to learn and behave. However, according to research, my feedback was actually having the opposite effect on student achievement. As Dylan Wiliam, an internationally recognized leader in the development of formative assessment, explains in this video, my praise was more ego involving as it was more focused on the “person’s position in the class.” His comments made me realize that students would have been better off if I would have “just shut up” instead of providing feedback that wasn’t task involving. If the goal is to increase academic achievement and internal motivation, feedback should be more task-oriented where comments are more specific to the task and requires the receiver of feedback to think.

Tara Olson, a former English teacher at Horizon Middle School who recently took the position of instructional coach, said she uses feedback in conjunction with a self-monitoring tool for her students.
The students self-assess their writing assignment, which they also use as a checklist for their final draft. Tara mentioned that she and the students usually agree on the scores; however, if there is a discrepancy, she and the student know that the inconsistency is merely an indicator of where attention should be focused. An example of this is noted in the punctuation section, “Commas! This will be one of your goals for next quarter.” As you can see, the feedback Tara is giving to this student is more task-involving. The specific feedback, such as, “After all the excitement, the ending seemed abrupt.” results in the student thinking about next steps in adjusting the conclusion.

Another example of effective feedback that promotes student thinking is communicated electronically in Rhiannon Roemmich’s Wachter Middle School English classroom. The feedback is immediate, task-oriented, and requires action/thought on the receiver’s end. At times, the teacher is using questions as a form of feedback, which requires students to think about how to answer the questions.

Effective feedback is a very time consuming task for teachers; however, according to John Hattie’s Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement, feedback made the top ten in the list of 138. A critical component of the “Piagetian programs” - ranked the second most effective influence in student achievement - is student metacognition.  Student metacognition, which focuses on the “thinking processes” is also directly tied to effective feedback.  
It appears that from Wiliam’s comments in the video and the synthesized results from Hattie, students who have a high success rate:
  • understand the learning expectation
  • are asked to self-reflect on their level of proficiency
  • receive task-involving feedback from teachers with time for revision

Opportunities you DON’T WANT TO MISS:
  • Designing blended environments can often assist in providing effective feedback in the classroom. If teachers are interested in release time for development of automated feedback through a variety of electronic systems, please contact Rebecca Savelkoul at Rebecca_Savelkoul@bismarckschools.org.
  • If you are interested in learning more about giving task-involving feedback, contact Pat Phillips at Pat_Phillips@bismarckschools.org to join the Summer Formative Assessment Academy.

A comprehensive list of resources is also available through the BPS resource A Pocket Guide to Standards-based Education.

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