Thursday, January 30, 2014

Feedback: Making Time for What Matters

Don't confuse grades with feedback.  Traditional grades don't encourage improvement.  Grades are not intended to help you improve.  Grades are final, even when we say they are formative.  Once a student sees a grade, they move onto the next subject.  This is proven out in research.   Feedback is a part of the learning process.  Feedback tells you what you are doing well so that you continue to do those things.  It also gives suggestions of what you can do better.  

And Now, A Statement from the Confused Teacher

It's easier to simply check problems correct or incorrect on a test.  Then this works out into a percentage grade.  That grade can then be converted into a letter grade. As a teacher, why waste my time on writing comments and giving suggestions?  That takes much more time and is less efficient.  What a waste of time.  I'll teach them, then I will grade them.  Then, bam, I'll teach them again.  The perfect system-Efficient.

Efficient or Not Efficient, That is the Question

The above would be true, unless you look at the definition of efficient.  Then you've got yourself a problem.

Efficient: 1) achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense 2) working in a well-organized and competent way.

Maximum Productivity

Feedback is shown to have a great impact on learning.  Nothing has a greater impact than good feedback.

Minimum Wasted Effort-

Use in-class formative assessments and provide immediate feedback regularly.  
Well Organized-Have systems in place to organize feedback.  Formative assessment such as quick checks for understanding using a randomized way to collect answers from students.  This could be as simple as using popsicle sticks to choose who will answer next.  You could also use a clicker system but technology, in this case, does not necessarily make it better.  Maybe you have a system at the end of class for student to put sticky notes on the door as they leave the room.  


A great teacher understands the research.  The research tells us feedback correlates in a very strong way to learning.

Making Time for What Matters

Grading without feedback does not enhance learning and therefore by definition is not efficient (or effective).  Since the goal is learning, spend your time where you get the biggest impact on learning----Quality Feedback.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Runner's Analogy: Clear Targets + Effective Feedback

Good Instruction=Clear Targets + Effective Feedback

The Runner's Analogy

Scenario 1-Traditional Grading Methods

You begin practicing to run a half marathon by running.  Only you don't know how long the race is going to be.  So you take off sprinting.  Then, the coach stops you and says you got an "A."  You know that means that you have done a good job, so you start sprinting again.  Then, you are stopped again.  Again, you are given an "A."  This continues but towards the end of the practice half marathon, you are getting slower and slower.  You are exhausted.  You can't run anymore.  You start walking.  Fortunately, the race is getting harder for everyone.  Everybody started too fast.  So, the times aren't very good but the coach can't fail everybody.  He gives you A's and B's.  You are sitting with a B+ average.  Then the coach tells you, if you can do a vertical jump of 20 inches, I will give you bonus points.  So you do it.  Now you are up to an A.  You didn't improve and actually got worse, but you met your goal. You've completed what you were supposed to do, you've checked off the marks along the way, and you grabbed some extra points at the end to ensure you got the grade you wanted.  When it is time to run an entire race, you really don't know what you are doing.  You learned that you probably shouldn't run so fast at the beginning but in terms of form, you know nothing new.  So when the race comes, you do your best, which lucky for you, is pretty much as good as the others in your class.

Scenario 2-Clear Targets + Effective Feedback (assessed by a specific criteria)

The coach tells you that you will be running 13.1 miles.  As you begin running, the coach tells you to "look straight ahead."  "Your head is down, look 10 feet in front of you."  As you start to tighten up, the coach tells you to "relax your shoulders and chest" and "Lead with your hips."  You make these adjustments and make improvements throughout the practice.  These are also things that you will now be able to relate to the next time you are running without a coach next to you.  During practice, you make improvements to get better for the actual race.  You continue to practice over several days and continue to get feedback.  The race becomes the assessment.  The practice helped you improve.  It doesn't count for you or against you.  You will be judged solely on your performance during the race.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Initiatives that focus on Feedback

Initiatives that focus on Feedback using Formative Assessments
(Johnson Crossing's 13-14 Initiatives)
Formative Assessment
Create Common Formative Assessments
Use formative assessments as a feedback tool for students and make instructional decisions based on the data provided by common formative assessments.
Learn to implement formative assessments
Use feedback to adjust instruction.
Use formative assessments to improve student learning prior to assigning grades
Change from a “summative” approach to a feedback first approach.  Grades are assigned after students have gotten a chance to learn from the feedback.

PLC-Process to answer these questions:
  • What do we want students to learn? (Essential learnings)
  • How will we know they learned it? (Common formative assessments)
  • What will we do when they haven’t learned it? (Interventions)
  • What will we do when they have learned it? (Enrichment)

KLT-Learn strategies that inform instruction-formative assessments.

Grading-Make a grading system that is “for learning” and gives actionable feedback.
  • Move grading from fixed mindset to growth mindset
  • Connects learning as a part of the process rather than the endpoint (grade)
  • Move grading to giving feedback and improvement
    • How you do at the end is more important than how you did while learning
  • Separates behavior from academic

Focus on Feedback

Feedback-is one of the most powerful tools a teacher has to improve learning. (see Hattie’s effect size)

  • Does the feedback inform students of what they are doing?
  • How is the feedback presented?
    • Is the feedback presented in a non-competitive way?
    • Is the feedback presented with a growth mindset?
    • Does the learner participate in collecting data or analyzing how they are doing in relation to the learning target?
  • Does the feedback relate to the learning target?
    • What is my goal?
    • Where progress have I made towards my goal?
    • What actions must be taken to move towards my goal?
  • Does the feedback help the student become more aware of their own learning?

Growth Mindset
  • Sees academic performance as able to improve
  • With work, a student can improve his grade
Fixed Mindset
  • Sees intelligence as you got it or you don’t
  • Students see themselves as unable to improve because they are either smart or not smart

Implications on Feedback
Fixed mindset
  • “Wow, you did great, you are so smart.”
  • “Nice job, you are really good at Math.”
  • “You missed 3 out of the 5 questions-you get an F”
  • Yet-“You haven’t solved this equation yet.”
  • Already-“What do you already  know?”
  • Comments are process oriented-“That is an effective strategy.”

Feedback and Formative Assessments

  • Assessments are formative if they are giving feedback that is actionable and will improve student learning.