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.
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