Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Provide Effective Feedback...When A Smile Sticker Just Isn't Enough

Great Job!
How many times have you read through a stack of student papers and provided a smiley sticker, star, check or point total as the feedback for the student.   Kids love stickers, even high school students get excited when you take the time to put a sticker on the paper.  But what purpose do stickers serve, and what message are they sending to the student?  Point totals tell students a value for the "right" information they provided, but don't really help them identify what they may need to continue to work on.   Stickers let students know that we "like" their work or that we acknowledge the effort that they put into completing it.  Stickers are a type of feedback, but they are not effective feedback. As teachers, we need to ask ourselves how our feedback will help our students grow in their learning.

There are three categories of feedback:
    • Effective feedback - moves learning forward
    • Success feedback -helps students focus on what was done well
    • Intervention feedback - helps student focus on what needs work and provides guidance for what to do about it.
Stickers are SUCCESS feedback.  They let students know what was done well.  Stickers can be used when students are working on developing  mastery of a learning target and may need the success feedback to help them identify areas of strength. With success feedback, the focus is on reinforcing existing knowledge or past knowledge.

EFFECTIVE feedback needs to be specific and related directly to the learning targets. Effective feedback helps to move learning forward, so the focus is not just on existing knowledge but on building additional knowledge or deepening existing knowledge.  Rubrics are one way to provide effective feedback.  A rubric contains clear descriptions of learning expectations. Student input on the development of the rubric makes them even more powerful as feedback tools.  Providing a rubric at the beginning of an assignment allows students to adjust their learning and their work to meet your clear targets.  Another type of effective feedback is to provide students with examples of strong and weak work samples.  Spend time discussing these samples.  Compare them to the rubric. Asks students how they would improve upon weak samples or what characteristics make a sample "strong". Finally, Jan Chappuis, in her book Seven Strategies of Assessment For Learning, uses an approach called "stars and stairs" to help students identify areas where they are showing mastery and areas where they may need additional practice, revision or support.

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