Category Archives: Slides

The REAL Feedback Experts in Your Building

One of my best buds is a brilliant Canadian elementary school teacher named Diana Williams.  She’s this super motivated, talented woman who finds great ideas and then runs with them — challenging both her own practice and the practice of others along the way.

Recently, Diana has been tinkering a bit with the feedback practices that I’ve been pushing here on the Radical — and while chaperoning a school band trip to an out-of-town performance, she had a Eureka moment:

(click here to view image credits and download on Flickr)
Slide - Rehersals as Feedback

Diana’s right, isn’t she?  There ARE places in our schools where high-quality feedback is the norm rather than the exception to the rule.  

In fact, every art teacher, chorus teacher, band director and coach in your building knows just how to turn feedback into detective work for their students.  After all, they’ve spent their lives polishing and perfecting knowledge and skills in performance-based fields.  As Diana — who was a musician before ever becoming a teacher — explains:

In my own training I had this immediate feedback/application cycle and the thinking skills that are inherit in that process/feedback modeled for and with me and practiced until it became unconscious muscle memory.

That’s true for your softball coach too, guys.  And for your carpentry teacher and your auto mechanics instructor, your drama director, your family and consumer science teacher, and your dance instructor.  They are all highly trained experts with first-hand experience with the kind of feedback/application cycle that Diana describes.

That also means every experience that your students have had in classes beyond the core curriculum has probably been FULL of examples of high quality feedback.

They’ve already learned to set goals and measure their progress against examples of excellence.  They’ve already started identifying areas of personal strength and weakness — and they’ve already felt the satisfaction that comes from discovering that forward progress IS possible.

THAT’s why kids dig electives more than any other part of their day.  It’s the ONE place where they can see evidence of their own improvement on a moment by moment basis.  And THAT’s why we need to push against cheap attempts to cut “the specials” from our school days in order to save cash and/or prioritize “academics.”

The simple truth is that learning to receive and react to feedback — a skill that has natural connections to classes outside of the “core” curriculum — may be the most important academic skill that students ever learn.



Related Radical Reads:

The Best Feedback is Gathered, Not Given

New Feedback Activity:  Not Yet/You Bet Lists

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

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