Sunday, February 27, 2011

Student Feedback

One of our most important jobs as a teacher is to be a good coach, and with good coaching comes the job of providing feedback. What is good feedback?  How often should students receive feedback? What are the different kinds of feedback? What feedback is best?

When I take a course, I like feedback.  I especially like feedback if I believe the course facilitator has knowledge and information that I want to learn.  For example, right now I'm taking a fiction writing course.  The professor is really smart.  She knows a lot about writing fiction, and already in a few short weeks, my ability to write a story has developed.  Her hand-outs are pointed and specific, and her comments are brief and helpful.  When she provides feedback, she notes what's good about a piece as well as the specific areas that need work.  Then she provides suggestions or avenues as to how I can improve in those areas.

I'm sure that my students are similar to me.  Good feedback spurs them on, gives them a direction, and inspires them to do a better job.  Today, I spent a lot of time reviewing student work.  I decided to write each student a letter about their recent Museum exhibits.  In each letter, I noted the specific aspects of the exhibit that were noteworthy.  I gave feedback on their effort, organization, and work habits during the project.  I didn't offer specific feedback about improving the project because I did that throughout the project process.  I also corrected a math assessment.  On each assessment I noted areas of mastery, areas that need continued practice, and areas that needed reteaching.  For those needing practice, I gave some practical suggestions, and for those needing reteaching, I made a plan for reteaching and noted that.

The most difficult part of providing student feedback is the time it takes.  Every teacher knows feedback is essential, and almost every teacher laments the time it takes on weekends, nights, and early mornings to grade papers, provide performance reviews and offer feedback.  Today it took me about five hours to review work and provide feedback.  Then it took me another hour to respond to that feedback by writing lists, reworking the schedule, and contacting specialist teachers regarding the results.

It seems like feedback might be the subject of this Tuesday's Twitter #edchat.  I'll be interested to see what people have to say.  If you have any comments you'd like to share with me in the meantime, please do.  This is an area of education I want to learn more about.