As educators, we are dependent on evidence of best practices in the work that we do with children. We rely on feedback from mentors, coaches, and supervisors that have a grounding in the evidence we produce that provides a window to our teaching skills. Evidence comes from direct observation and the review of a teacher’s skill in designing and sequencing meaningful learning experiences, locating appropriate resources, long-range planning, developing assessments, and communicating with the school community and families. Self-reflection and self-evaluation are also a part of the feedback cycle. Just as we are sensitive to feedback about our performance, and need feedback to improve our work, students deserve and are entitled to productive feedback about their work. Students need to know about the evidence that teachers find in their work and the evaluation of their work based on specific guidelines.
In providing feedback to students, these strategies need to be considered as we work with students individually, in small group and in large groups:
Timing – When it is given and how often. Provide feedback as often as is practical, for all major assignments. Attempt to provide timely feedback to encourage student thinking and processing.
Amount – How many points are made and how detailed is each point. Prioritize by selecting the most important points. Choose points that relate to the main learning goals, while considering the students’ developmental level, prior knowledge, and ability in long and short-term memory. Students need feedback when they are still mindful of the learning target. They need the feedback information while there is still time to act on it and they need enough feedback so they understand what to do but not so much that the work is done for them. Teachers need to consider commenting on strengths as well as weaknesses.
Mode of Feedback – Is it oral, written, or a visual/demonstration. Select the best mode so that the message is well received. On written work, give written feedback. Jot notes on the assignment cover sheet when students need to be able to save and look over their work. Use oral feedback if the student has difficulty reading or if the feedback is long. Use demonstration if the student needs an example of how to do something or what something “looks like.”
Audience – Individual feedback says that the teacher values the student’s learning. Group or whole class feedback is effective if a large number of students missed the same concept. This is also a great opportunity for reteaching.
Feedback provides the student and the teacher with a connection between what they did and the results they got. The students begin to focus on careless errors and confusion of facts and concepts so they can “study smarter, not harder.” The purpose of feedback is to empower students to be engaged in the learning process so that they can improve their own performance. It makes a connection between student work and their more intentional efforts. The beauty of thoughtful, well planned feedback is to avoid personal comments; it is a learning tool that can aid teachers and students in their goals to learn in a productive environment.
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