For many educators, the past year of pandemic teaching has provided them with the need to reevaluate their feedback processes to better meet students’ needs during online instruction. We had to adopt new ways to interact with and get to know our students and their methods of learning. Many educators also began using new tools or means of providing important feedback to students as well.
Recorded screencasting or video assessment or comments from teachers increased during the pandemic for a few reasons. First, it allowed a teacher to demonstrate their empathy for their students and to personalize their communications while avoiding the stress of a more impersonal, written comment. Using a screencast as illustrated in this article, also provides a great opportunity for a teacher to model their suggestions and to specifically address individual portions of an assignment. A bonus for students is their ability to watch the video/screencast as many times as needed. In the above article, Lee Ferguson discusses the benefits of using screencasting for feedback. Once you have begun to implement screencasts to explore and explain thinking, it becomes an excellent tool for students to make their thinking visible.
Creating a classroom of trust and belonging was more important than ever during 2020-21. Information about the neuroscience of learning provides strong evidence that students who are stressed or do not feel they belong, can’t fully access and use their cognitive abilities. This provides a strong reason to get to know your students and their preferred style of feedback as well as spending time preparing students to be wise receivers of feedback. Starr Sackstein writes more about that in this blog post.
Once you have spent time teaching students how to use the outlined criteria of a given assignment to self-assess and use teacher feedback, you can begin to implement peer feedback in your classroom. Protocols such as the Ladder of Feedback can serve as a great framework for teaching students to provide useful feedback to one another. We begin the year with students engaging in a design thinking activity about their summer reading assignment in my classes. After they have created their prototype of a solution for a character, they do a quick round of feedback using the I like, I wish, I wonder framework. After students have had the opportunity to look at their feedback, we have a conversation about what useful feedback is and isn’t. “I like the pet you designed” is not very helpful, but “I wonder if you created a pet that can help with X’s physical challenges” could be. This activity serves as a touchpoint that we refer back to throughout the year when students are asked to provide feedback to one another. We spend time building students’ ability to provide constructive support to classmates, and this article makes some excellent suggestions for considerations if you intend to do the same.
Formative feedback should not be graded. The quote below from Starr Sackstein encapsulates quite aptly the reason that formative feedback should not be graded.
Once we put a grade or label on a student, we diminish possibilities greatly. Grades end learning and they can potentially humiliate students. Even traditionally higher achieving students stress themselves out when they don’t do well right away.Starr Sackstein
To grow as learners, students need the opportunity to practice and make mistakes. If we grade their practice (homework, starters, worksheets, etc.) we are adding an element of stress to the work that reduces the opportunity for students to fail and grow. Summative assessments should come at the end of learning and practice and should provide an opportunity for a student to “perform” or demonstrate their mastery of a topic or skill. The formative pieces should be the opportunity to practice leading up to the performance task or summative assessment and should include feedback from peers and the teacher. In my classes, the formative assessment receives lots of feedback in different forms (verbal, conference, written, class discussions, peer) and provides input that can help a student tweak or improve their work. In this article, Kristy Louden talks about her success in giving students feedback that is actionable and useful and asking them to respond to it meaningfully before giving students their grades. This process ensures that students will critically consider the comments a teacher has taken so much time to share. If feedback can’t or won’t be used in a short period of time, don’t spend your time assessing the work. Teacher feedback is a precious resource and should not be wasted.