Category Archives: Feedback

New Feedback Activity: Unit Analysis Forms

If you’ve been reading the Radical for any length of time, you know that I’ve been wrestling with the role that feedback plays in my classroom.

What you may not know, however, is that most of that work was inspired by a single quote from this article written by assessment experts Rick Stiggins and Jan Chappuis.  They write:

Thus, the essential school improvement question from an assessment point of view is this: Are we skilled enough to use classroom assessment to either (1) keep all learners from losing hope to begin with, or (2) rebuild that hope once it has been destroyed?

Stiggins and Chappuis are right, aren’t they?  In traditional classrooms, our feedback strategies — think providing a single grade for every handout, project and test that comes across our desks — leaves struggling students feeling hopeless simply because they rarely see evidence of their own successes.  That breaks my heart.

The solution is a simple one:  Any grade that you give in your classroom should be paired with structured opportunities for students to spot the progress that they are making regardless of the final marks that they earn on an assignment.

What can that look like in action?

In my classroom, it looks like this Unit Analysis Form, which students fill out after a unit test has been passed back:

Handout – Scientific Method Unit Analysis Form

Unit Analysis Forms include three essential components: (1). A list of all of the outcomes that students are expected to master during the course of a cycle of instruction, (2). A list of the specific tasks completed during the course of a cycle of instruction– quiz questions, test questions, classroom assignments – that students can use as evidence of mastery, and (3). An opportunity for students to reflect on the progress that they have made over the course of a cycle of instruction.

Unit Analysis Forms also ask learners to decide whether their struggles are a result of conceptual errors or simple mistakes.  “Typically, we make mistakes through lack of attention,” write Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey, “But once they are pointed out to us, we immediately recognize them and usually know the corrective action to take…Errors, on the other hand, occur because of lack of knowledge.  Even when alerted, the learner isn’t quite sure what to do to fix the problem.”

Unit Analysis Forms are powerful tools for helping students seek and effectively deal with feedback primarily because they make it possible to spot differing levels of mastery across all of the outcomes covered within a unit.  That means students can see exactly which outcomes they have mastered and which outcomes they continue to wrestle with.

For students who struggle, this kind of targeted feedback can be a source of encouragement. 

Instead of feeling like failures after earning a low score, they are likely to spot concepts and skills that they were successful at mastering.  More importantly, Unit Analysis Forms can help struggling learners and their classroom teachers to be more efficient, spending time revisiting genuine errors instead of wasting time correcting simple mistakes (Fisher & Frey, 2012).

So let me ask you an uncomfortable question:  How often do your students get to examine outcome specific feedback after completing major assignments?  It really is the first step for rebuilding hope in struggling learners.



Related Radical Reads:

New Feedback Activity:  Not Yet/You Bet Lists

New Feedback Activity:  Feedback is a Work For/Work On Process

New Slide:  Turning Feedback Into Detective Work


New Slide: Prioritizing Grading over Feedback

I’m more than a little spent tonight. Not sure why, but I don’t have a ton to give.  Whenever I get to that point, I like to work on slides.  Something about tinkering with words and colors and layouts leaves me refreshed.

So I whipped up a slide for a thought that has been sitting in the back of my mind for a while now.  I think it reflects an uncomfortable truth about what schools have become in our quest for accountability.

Hope that it challenges your thinking.  More importantly, I hope that you use it to challenge someone else’s thinking:

Grading over Feedback

(Click here to view original image and download on Flickr)


Related Radical Reads:

New Feedback Activity:  Not Yet/You Bet Lists

New Feedback Activity:  Feedback is a Work For/Work On Process

New Slide:  Turning Feedback Into Detective Work

New Feedback Activity: Not Yet/You Bet Lists

If you have been following the Radical at all this month, you know that I’m currently consumed by the notion that we need to rethink the feedback practices that we have integrated into our classrooms.  The simple Dylan Wiliam inspired truths driving all of my thinking are that we have to turn feedback into detective work and that feedback should be more work for the recipient than it is for the donor.

But there’s a flaw in my thinking, y’all:  If we are truly going to develop confident, self-directed learners who thrive in situations for which they were not specifically prepared, we have to remind the kids in our classrooms that they should be actively gathering feedback about their progress BEYOND school, too.  If feedback becomes “a school thing” in the minds of our students, they will be woefully unprepared to meet the demands of the modern workplace where thinking on the fly, leading in the moment, and moving forward in uncertain circumstances really are essential skills.

So I’m tinkering with a new idea that I’m calling Not Yet/You Bet Lists.

Check it out here:

Handout – Not Yet/You Bet List

Like the Unit Overview Sheets that I’ve written extensively about on the Radical (see here, here and here), Not Yet/You Bet Lists are designed to give students opportunities to track the essential content and skills that they are working to master.  But because they are simple tools, students – whether they are baseball players, gymnasts, pianists or martial artists – can use Not Yet/You Bet Lists to detail the progress that they are making in areas of personal interest and passion outside of school.

Think about it like this:  At the beginning of each new season, parents, coaches and/or tutors can help students to generate lists of important skills worth working on.  Those new skills can be listed in the Not Yet column of the Not Yet/You Bet List, serving as a tangible, transparent reminder of just what it is that a student is working towards.

After practices, training sessions, or recitals, students can revisit their Not Yet/You Bet Lists to reflect on the progress that they are making.  When a new skill has been mastered, students can move it from the Not Yet to the You Bet column of the handout. Each time an important outcome is moved, students are reminded that they are making progress and that they can learn – important messages for building confident, self-directed learners.

Can you see why all of this matters?

By asking students to think carefully about their own strengths and weaknesses in learning situations outside of school, Not Yet/You Bet Lists can reinforce core feedback practices that you are trying to integrate into your classroom instruction.  More importantly, by asking students to think carefully about their own strengths and weaknesses in learning situations outside of school, Not Yet/You Bet Lists can reinforce the core notion that actively monitoring individual progress isn’t just a school skill.  It’s a life skill.

So whaddya’ think?  Does this have any value?  

I haven’t tried it with my own students yet — it’s a new idea for me, too.  But I think it just might work!


Related Radical Reads:

Turning Feedback into Detective Work

Activity: Feedback Action Planning Template

Activity: Where Am I Going Reflection Sheet

Feedback Should Be a Work For/Work On Process


Activity: Feedback Action Planning Template

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been doing a ton of tinkering this year with the way that I give students feedback in my classroom.  My goal is to steal Dylan Wiliam’s idea that our goal should be to turn feedback into detective work.  That just feels right to me.

So I whipped up another activity this weekend.  I’m calling it a Feedback Action Planning Template.  Here it is:

Handout – Feedback Action Planning Template

This handout is a follow-up of an conversation that I had with my buddy Paul Cancellieri, who likes to argue that all too often, we fail to create time and space for students to (1). reflect on the feedback that they have received and (2). plan next steps based on the feedback that they receive.  Paul calls this “the essential epilogue” of the feedback process — and without it, feedback is a complete and total waste of time because it doesn’t result in new learning for our students.

So I wanted to create a structure for that “essential epilogue” — and in that structure, I wanted students to (1). think about what it was that they were trying to learn to begin with, (2). think about the feedback given to them, and (3). plan next steps.

My hope is that there will be times when students realize that the feedback they have received indicates that they have additional learning to do.  I also hope that there will be times that students realize that they disagree with the feedback they receive — or that they don’t completely trust the expertise of the people giving them feedback.

Either way, they will realize that feedback should lead to action — and that’s a win in my book.

Whaddya’ all think?


Related Radical Reads:

Activity – Where Am I Going Reflection Sheet

Feedback Should Be More Work for the Recipient

Giving Feedback Should Be a Work For/Work On Process


Activity – Where Am I Going Reflection Sheet

As regular Radical readers know, I’ve been tinkering with student-involved assessment practices over the past several years.  My goal is to turn feedback into detective work — a concept that assessment expert Dylan Wiliam argues is essential to producing the kinds of self-reliant, reflective learners that will succeed in an increasingly complex work world.

To push that kind of work forward in my room, I’m thinking about building on John Hattie’s assertion in Visible Learning (2009) that the best feedback helps students to answer three questions:  “Where am I going? (learning intentions/goals/success criteria), How am I going? (self assessment and self evaluation), and  Where to next? (progression/new goals)” (Kindle Location 3995).

So I’ve developed several versions of what I’m calling a “Where am I Going Reflection Sheet.”  Check them out here:

Where am I Going Reflection Sheet

My plan is to ask students to return to this reflection sheet several times over the course of a unit to think carefully about the ongoing expectations for classroom lessons and the evidence that they can collect to prove that they are mastering essential content and/or skills.  The goal is to help students realize that setting goals, monitoring progress, and identifying areas for continued improvement are natural steps taken by learners.

Some of the templates that I’ve developed are explicit, defining the essential outcomes, sources of evidence, and strategies for moving forward in advance. Others are less explicit, requiring students to demonstrate a greater grasp of the expectations and opportunities in each sequence of instruction.  My guess is that I’d use these templates to differentiate instruction in my classroom, handing out the explicit templates to students who struggle to set their own direction and monitor their own progress towards mastering essential content.

Does any of this make sense to all y’all?  More importantly, does this seem like a practice worth pursuing?  What changes would you make to the templates that I’ve created?


Related Radical Reads:

Peer Feedback Should Start with Observations, not Evaluations

Feedback Should Be More Work for the Recipient

Giving Feedback Should Be a Work For/Work On Process