Category Archives: Slides

The Best Feedback is GATHERED, not GIVEN

All y’all know that I’ve been completely consumed by reimagining the role that feedback should play in the modern classroom, right?  I’ve been reading darn near everything written by experts like Dylan Wiliam, Grant Wiggins, John Hattie, Rick Stiggins, Jan Chappuis, Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey.  More importantly, I’ve been tinkering with the feedback practices in my classroom for the better part of the past four years.

If there’s any single thought that holds together the key findings of all of these folks, it’s that the best feedback is GATHERED, not GIVEN:

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

Slide - Gathered By Filled

Here’s why:  When we reverse the traditional roles that teachers and learners play in the classroom feedback cycle, we are helping our students to recognize that the people who are the MOST successful in our world AREN’T those who can take critique from a boss and adjust their actions/behaviors/work products accordingly.

The MOST successful people in our world are constantly critiquing THEMSELVES.  They are identifying meaningful goals worth pursuing, looking for exemplars to measure their own performances against, setting criteria for determining success, measuring their own progress, and constantly adjusting their goals, their decisions, their actions and their direction on the fly.

To borrow a related thought from Mortimer Adler, author of The Paideia Proposal:

All genuine learning is active, not passive.  It involves the use of the mind, not just the memory.  It is a process of discovery, in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher.

So ask yourself this:  How often is the feedback process that you are using with students active and not passive?  How often does it turn your students into the main agents in a process of discovery, using their minds to create meaning and find sense in their own patterns of performance?



Related Radical Reads:

New Feedback Activity:  Unit Analysis Forms

New Feedback Activity:  Not Yet/You Bet Lists

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

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 Slide: The Brain is a Sponge

The other day, a good friend and I were talking about the struggle that we sometimes feel to keep up with all that we are learning and all that we are doing in our professional and personal lives.  She said something that I thought was brilliant:

(Click here to enlarge and view original image credit on Flickr)

Slide - Brain is a Sponge

That’s interesting stuff, right?

We really CAN overwhelm our own minds with too much information, even when that information is all useful and important and valuable to us both as people and as professionals.  The real challenge of learning and living in the modern world isn’t FINDING information that can drive our thinking, it’s FILTERING that information and FOCUSING on the right ideas at the right time.

So the next time you feel completely scrambled and overwhelmed, make a commitment to cutting new ideas from your to-do list.  Doing so can might just keep your brain from leaking!



Related Radical Reads:

Information Overload = Filter Failure

Hitting Home Runs Fifty Feet at a Time

Twitter Snobs or Efficient Learners?



New Slide: Turn Feedback into Detective Work

I’ve done a ton of reading and writing and experimenting with feedback and assessment practices over the past few years, and no single quote resonates more with me than this one from Dylan Wiliam:

(Click here to view original image, credit and copyright on Flickr)

Slide - Feedback as Detective Work

Dylan is right, isn’t he?

If feedback is truly going to be meaningful, then students need to do more with it than simply read it and file it away in their notebooks.  Our goal as teachers should go from grading papers and telling students what we see to helping students unravel the mystery in their own learning.  The power in feedback doesn’t come from delivery.  It comes from discovery.

My buddy Paul Cancellieri calls the moments when we ask students to review the work that they have submitted and to reflect on both the content and the skills that they have already mastered the “essential epilogue” of every learning experience.  Jan Chappuis says it like this:  “It turns out that it isn’t the giving of feedback that causes learning gains, it is the acting on feedback that determines how much students learn.”

So how often are YOU turning feedback into detective work in your classroom?



Related Radical Reads:

Peer Feedback Should Start with Observations – Not Evaluations

Feedback Should Be More Work for the Recipient

Giving Effective Feedback is a Work For/Work On Process

Making Room for Uncertainty in the Required Curriculum

Poking through my feed reader this morning, I stumbled across a Mindshift KQED article that I think every educator ought to read.

Titled How to Spark Curiosity in Children through Embracing Uncertainty, it makes a simple argument:  Instruction centered on facts that have already been settled fails today’s students.  “Without insight into the holes in our knowledge,” author Linda Flanagan writes, “students mistakenly believe that some subjects are closed. They lose humility and curiosity in the face of this conceit.”

Slide - Scientific Discovery

I worry about that argument because I’m held accountable for teaching a massive curriculum that is slam-packed full of settled facts.

While I believe in the importance of developing students who are willing to grope and probe and poke their way through moments of uncertainty — who are as comfortable NOT knowing as they are with having the right answers — the simple truth is that facilitating experiences that allow students to wrestle with uncertainty takes time that I just don’t have.  If moments of genuine discovery are going to make their way into my classroom, something has to give — and that ‘something’ is going to end up being content that is currently listed in my ‘required’ curriculum.

And THAT’s what drives me nuts about being a classroom teacher in today’s world.

There’s a constant tension between what we SAY we want our students to know and be able to do and what we LIST as priorities in our mandated pacing guides.  Almost twenty years into the 21st Century, we continue give lip service to the importance of things like creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, but we create no real space for that kind of content in our school, district and/or state curricula guides.  Worse yet, we do nothing to assess those skills.  Instead, we are still holding students and schools accountable for nothing more than the mastery of settled facts.

That has to change.  Plain and simple.



Related Radical Reads:

How Testing Will Change What I Teach Next Year.

Walking Moral Tightropes ISN’T a Reform Strategy

Bulldozing the Forests