Feedback is essential for learning. It is the necessary dialogue that informs what we know and what we can do better to improve. Traditionally, teachers have been responsible for being the sole providers of this learning goal, but they shouldn’t be working in isolation.
As students grow toward empowered learning environments, we need to teach them how to provide excellent feedback to each other in meaningful ways. This exchange does not only help the person receiving the feedback, but also the person providing it.
If we hope to have a class where students can be the experts, we must first model the feedback we want them to be able to provide. Showing them what actionable feedback looks like, and then allowing them to practice giving and receiving feedback, increases their ability to both identify strengths and challenges, and provide strategies for increasing the strengths.
As we work our way through new learning, teachers will be helping to fill student feedback toolboxes with direct instruction through mini-lessons to help provide better strategies for actionable feedback.
8 Tips for Teachers to Increase the Learning:
- Model what feedback looks like and how it should be given. Regardless of the age or subject you teach, we must show students that feedback stretches way beyond “this is good” or “this is wrong.”
- Have students track the feedback teachers provide, so they have a list of strategies and language to help provide better feedback.
- Create expert groups in class that allow students to get excel at one skill you are working on. Groups can be selected by strength or challenge. It is useful for students to be in mixed groups. These groups shouldn’t be larger than four.
- Use expert groups to help workshop learning and provide ongoing feedback throughout a unit.
- Make sure to continue providing feedback that students are giving each other. Check-in with expert groups and with students to ensure that the groups know what they are looking for, what strategies to provide, and how to use the language of the standards. Check-in with the individual students to ensure that they are getting the help they need.
- Work with expert groups to continue growth in the area of focus, adding additional strategies where needed.
- Provide reflection time in class so that students can consider the feedback they have been given and to review the growth and continued areas of need.
- Switch groups periodically to make sure students in the expert groups are still deepening their knowledge and students receiving the feedback are still getting fresh perspectives.
Offering feedback is a nuanced process that when done correctly can really improve student learning. Imagine the power of putting “feedback” into the hands of our students. Teachers must consider allowing students to have this control. There will be a need for continued vigilance as some students may not pull their weight fully. Take the opportunity to shift groups and work with students differently if this occurs.
Who gives the feedback in your classroom and how can you involve students more in the process? Please share.
Starr Sackstein is the author of Peer Feedback in the Classroom: Empowering Students to be the Experts with ASCD. She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #ecet2 and #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, throwing out grades and homework reform, BYOD helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.