Tag Archives: culture of feedback

Activity – Evaluating the Feedback Teachers Give TO Students.

As I mentioned last week, I’m working with a client who is interested in helping her teachers to improve the overall quality of the feedback that they give to students.  That’s an important step to take, given that feedback is one of the highest leverage practices that we use to help students achieve.

To help with that work, I pointed out that the best feedback given from teachers to students meets five basic criteria:

(1). It’s brief.

(2). It’s clear.

(3). It encourages thinking instead of compliance

(4). It’s ungraded

(5). It leaves time for subsequent action.

I’ve gone a step further, though, and developed an activity that can help teachers to reflect on the quality of the feedback given to students. 

In the activity, teachers look at five different samples of student work that has been reviewed and returned with feedback to students.  Then, they are asked to rank order the samples in order from “Most Effective Feedback Given to Students” to “Least Effective Feedback Given to Students.”  Finally, a series of three reflection questions are asked to encourage teachers to think through the kinds of simple changes that they can make to improve the feedback that they are giving to the students in their classroom.

Sound interesting to you?

Then check it out here.

I’d love to hear what you think of it!

Hope this helps.


Related Radical Reads:

Five Tips for Giving More Meaningful Feedback to Students

New Slide:  Turn Feedback into Detective Work

Google’s New Comment Bank is a Win for Meaningful Feedback

Peer Feedback Matters

Five Tips for Giving More Meaningful Feedback to Students.

A client that I am working with recently asked me an interesting question. 

She said, “Bill — I know that the most meaningful feedback in classrooms is feedback that students gather about their own learning, but the fact of the matter is that teachers still have to give feedback to their students.  It’s a basic expectation.  So what can my teachers do to improve the feedback that they give to their students.”

Great question, right?  

I think what I loved the best is her recognition that nothing is more valuable than the feedback that students gather about their own learning.  Dylan Wiliam calls that “turning feedback into detective work” — and I dig that analogy.

(click here to view full-size image on Flickr.)

But teachers DO give students tons of feedback — and there ARE steps that they can take to make the feedback given to students more useful.

Here are five tips followed by quotes from the educational experts who have pushed my thinking about the quality of the feedback that I provide in my classroom:

(1).  Be Clear.

“Students often find teachers’ feedback confusing, nonreasoned, and difficult to understand. Sometimes they think they have understood the teacher’s feedback when they have not, and even when they do understand it they may not know how to use it.” 

— John Hattie.     (p. 8 in this bit)

(2). Be Brief.

“Students differ in their capacity for responding to correction, and too much corrective feedback at one time can cause a student to shut down, guaranteeing that no further learning will take place.  In such cases, consider letting go of the urge to provide all correctives necessary to make the work perfect and instead provide as much guidance as the student can reasonably act on.” 

— Jan Chappuis        (p. 39 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(3).  Encourage Thinking, Not Compliance.

Second, whether your feedback is oral or written, choose your words carefully.  Describe the work’s strengths and give at least one suggestion for a next step that is directly in line with the learning target.  Use words that suggest the student is an active learner and will make decisions about how to go forward, not words that suggest a student should use the feedback by complying with a request.  

— Susan Brookhart        (p. 29 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(4). Leave Off the Grade….For Now.

When students receive both scores and comments, the first thing they look at is their score, and the second thing they look at is…someone else’s score.  Being compared with others triggers a concern for preserving well-being at the expense of growth.

— Dylan Wiliam          (p. 34 of this Ed Leadership issue)

(5).  Provide Time for Action.

When students get feedback on a performance that’s not followed by an opportunity to demonstrate the same knowledge or skills, feedback will fail.  Feedback “so they know better next time” is a waste of energy. This isn’t the students’ fault, and it doesn’t mean they didn’t take your feedback seriously.  It’s just a characteristic of how people learn.

— Susan Brookhart         (p. 28 of this Ed Leadership issue)

So which of these tips makes the most sense to you?  Which one would be the hardest to pull off?  Which one could you start using right now?

(And remember:  If you are interested in learning more about the role that feedback can play in the work that you do with students, you can check out Creating a Culture of Feedback — the short book I wrote with my buddy Paul Cancellieri.) 


Related Radical Reads:

New Slide:  Turn Feedback into Detective Work

Google’s New Comment Bank is a Win for Meaningful Feedback

Peer Feedback Matters

Session Materials: Annual Conference on Assessment and Grading

Over the next two days, I’ll be working with a group of incredibly motivated teachers and school leaders at Solution Tree’s Annual Conference on Assessment and Grading in Phoenix, Arizona.  Together, we’ll be wrestling with what good assessment looks like and the role that both feedback and grading can play in informing practice and developing learners.  My unique contribution to the conference will be primarily centered around student-involved assessment practices.

Here are my session descriptions and materials:


Creating a Culture of Feedback

Slides | Complete Handouts

In spring 2012, educational change expert Dean Shareski issued a simple challenge on his blog: “I’m wondering if you’re ready to let your students assess themselves. Not as some experiment where you end up grading them apart but where you really give the reins over to them?” This session introduces participants to the tangible steps William M. Ferriter has taken in his sixth-grade classroom to move from a culture of grading to a culture of feedback as a result of Shareski’s challenge.

Bill discusses the differences between grading and feedback. He helps participants explore simple self-assessment behaviors that can be integrated into any classroom. Teachers learn more about the common challenges of moving from a culture of grading to a culture of feedback in a classroom.


Digital Tools Can Make Differentiation Doable

Slides | Complete Handouts

If schools are working to ensure success for every student, learning experiences should be customized and aligned to student interests, needs, and unique learning styles. The challenge, however, rests in making differentiation manageable. While few teachers doubt the importance of differentiating, many struggle to make customized learning spaces a reality. William Ferriter introduces participants to a range of digital tools that can be used to 1) track progress by student and standard, 2) provide structure for differentiated classrooms, and 3) facilitate initial attempts at remediation and enrichment.

Bill shows how digital tools can provide quick checks for understanding and tracking progress by student and standard. Digital tools can deliver content and free class time for individualized instruction. Tools can help teachers use classroom observations to show student progress.


Assessing Learning in a Purpose Driven Classroom

Slides | Complete Handouts

Technology expert Will Richardson maintains that today’s classrooms are failing students. In Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (2012), Richardson says, “We focus on the easiest parts of the learning interaction, …accomplishments that can be easily identified and scored. Learning is relegated to the quantifiable.”

To create highly engaged learning spaces, classrooms must be reimagined as places where students work together to do work that matters. These arguments aren’t new; project-based learning has been promoted for the better part of a decade. How do we assess learning in classrooms where complex projects — rather than accomplishments that can be easily identified and scored — stand at the center of the curriculum?

Participants discuss why project-based learning should play a role in the modern classroom. They examine a planning template that illustrates project-based learning experiences focused on essential outcomes in a curriculum. William M. Ferriter explores simple steps for teachers to evaluate student mastery of essential outcomes.


How Do We Turn Failure Into Learning Opportunities?

Slides | Complete Handouts

Over the past five years, the notion of learning from failure has become widely embraced. Businesses tout the importance of failing fast and failing often to succeed sooner. Educators argue that failure helps students learn to be resilient and determined, and failure is the first step towards building a growth mindset.

No matter how well-intentioned we are, failure in schools still carries negative connotations and incredibly high stakes—fail a test and your grade suffers; fail too many district benchmarks and you are assigned to remedial classes; fail an end-of-grade exam and you are held back; fail to earn a very high GPA and your college and career choices are limited. The truth is no matter how intimidating failure can be, it can also be turned into a positive learning experience as long as teachers help students analyze their performance and make plans to move forward—a process William M. Ferriter introduces in this session.

Bill reviews four main reasons people fail at important tasks. He examines differences between learners who see failures as dead ends and those who see failure as a starting point for new learning. Carefully structured feedback can play in helping students turn failures into learning opportunities.


Using Digital Portfolios in Grades 5-12 to Create a Culture of Feedback

Slides | Complete Handouts

Research on characteristics of effective feedback reveals one simple truth time and again—feedback gathered by learners is more powerful than feedback given to learners. Our primary role in promoting learning should be to develop students who constantly reflect on what they know and what they don’t know—behaviors that can be encouraged through the regular use of digital portfolios in the classroom.

William M. Ferriter discuss the role of reflection in developing independent, self-directed learners. He examines how blogs, simple Web 2.0 tools, can play a role in digital portfolio projects. Participants learn how they can launch digital portfolio projects in their own classrooms.


If this content resonates with you, you might also want to check out my latest book, Creating a Culture of Feedback.  It’s a quick read that will force you to think carefully about the difference between grading and feedback in the modern classroom.


Peer Feedback Matters.

Over the last several years, I’ve done a ton of experimenting in my sixth grade classroom with peer feedback — structured opportunities for students to give and receive feedback from one another.  

That’s primarily a function of efficiency.   Teaching close to 120 students with a wide range of skills and abilities every single year makes it darn near impossible for me alone to provide feedback to the learners in my classroom.  If the best feedback is both timely and directive — an argument that Bob Marzano made nearly a decade ago — we need to teach students to look for guidance and support from one another rather than simply waiting to receive feedback from classroom teachers, who are perpetually buried in stacks of papers that need to be graded.

Every time that I pitch peer feedback to other educators, however, I’m met with real skepticism.  Teachers doubt the value of the feedback that students can provide to each other.  That’s a legitimate concern, given that most students have little experience giving feedback to — and receiving feedback from — one another in traditional classrooms.

The solution, though, isn’t to avoid peer feedback.  The solution is to give students lots of experience and practice with peer feedback.  The more structured opportunities that students have giving and receiving feedback with one another, the more skilled they will become.  And the more skilled that students become with peer feedback, the less teachers have to worry about whether or not the experience will be worthwhile.

So how do you ensure that peer feedback experiences are productive?  Start by encouraging students to give each other observations instead of evaluations.  

Statements like, “I really like” , “You’ve done a great job on _________” or “You need to improve your _____, ” are the kinds of comments that students are used to giving to one another.  After all, they are the kinds of comments they’ve long received from the teachers and other adult mentors in their lives.

But they are also evaluative — implying a judgment — and that’s when peer feedback can feel intimidating and awkward.  Sometimes, peers shy away from giving negative feedback to one another because they are afraid of hurting feelings.  Other times, peers are hesitant to receive feedback from one another because they don’t see classmates as authority figures capable of making accurate judgments.  The result is mediocre feedback experiences, hurt feelings, or both.

Instead, teach your students to use statements like “I notice that _____,” or “I’m not sure that I see ______ in your work.”  Those phrases are simply observations.  They don’t imply a judgment at all, leaving the recipient to decide what the feedback means about the overall quality of a work product.

Best of all, encouraging students to make observations instead of evaluations is easy.  Getting started requires nothing more than sharing lots of examples of observational sentence starters with students.  You can also compile lists of samples of comments made during peer feedback sessions and ask students to identify the statements that are observations and the statements that are evaluations.

Dylan Wiliam likes to argue that we need to turn feedback into “detective work.”  His central argument is a simple one:  The best feedback is gathered by — rather than given to — learners.  Well structured peer feedback experiences built on observations instead of evaluations can give BOTH students involved — the giver and the recipient — chances to act like detectives by reflecting on how well individual work products align with success criteria.

That means time spent in peer feedback experiences is time that everyone spends learning.

To learn more about the role that peer feedback can play in your classroom, check out Bill’s newest book, Creating a Culture of Feedback.  

Related Radical Reads:

Is REAL Formative Assessment Even Possible?

What Can the Principals of PLCs Learn from Handwashing?

Turning Feedback into Detective Work