Feedback can be this ubiquitous term that we use when we are trying to get kids more involved in the learning process. Unfortunately, sometimes it can become quite meaningless if we don't teach them to be more specific.
The quality of the feedback provided is the most essential part of how well any person can grow from what they are being told and ultimately, feedback is the tool we use to do that.
With a more structured approach to how we model and teach the art of feedback, students can increase their learning in tangible ways that even they can recognize without help.
When we make students partners in the feedback process, we all grow more.
Here are some easy ways to improve quality peer feedback:
Make certain that students understand the success criteria before they start the assignment and can articulate expectations of quality work. You can do this by frontloading the standards and providing rubrics or model assignments before students start. I always like for students to know the specific standards we are trying to cover when we start, so they know what we are working on.
Be involved in the formative process while students are working and allow them to confer with each other and not just the teacher. Using Google docs is a great way to do this as comments on the document are archived even after they are resolved. Students can be taught to use the language of the standards to focus their learning around those areas in the text. They should provide both positive and constructive feedback that allows other students to move forward. Asking clarifying questions is a great way to do this.
Teach students to ask excellent quality clarifying questions. Show them what they look like and practice asking them in class.
Provide them opportunities in class to do it so that you can answer their questions the first few times. Make sure that the feedback is quality and not just "this is good" or "this needs work." We can do better than that and we must.
Using Google forms to help students direct their feedback into specific areas that relate directly to the task and then share the feedback from the form with the students. This way the teacher can review the feedback and add anything other students haven't mentioned. This also saves time for the teacher as the students get better at providing quality feedback with practice.
Make sure to design the form to be specific to what is being asked.
Keep the form short and manageable in class
Make sure to keep the feedback anonymous to other students, but credited for the teacher.
Give time for students to answer the form in class and allow the form to be editable so they can revise answers later at will.
Use the data collected from the feedback to generate better mini-lessons to improve feedback in the future. This way too, all students are growing all of the time.
Design expert groups that know how to give feedback in particular areas and they search out those particular areas in their work and give students feedback based on a specific skill or content area. These groups can change regularly or can remain the same all year. The teacher can work with each group to increase their skill set.
Since there are no grades associated with the feedback, the work isn't being quantified, but rather moving forward and progressing and the giver, as well as the receiver, is improving along the way. Often students are placed in groups where their own challenges lie, so they can become more adept at identifying the challenge in other people's writing and then apply it to their own.
Providing feedback is in fact an art and we can scaffold the process to make kids better at it, using technology or without. How do you help students provide better feedback? Please share
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in December 2015