Monday, December 10, 2012

Student Work Review and Response Builds Understanding

A badge and a personal note summarized project
completion for each child. 
Yesterday I spent countless hours reading and responding to students' Google sites Writing Books (ePortfolios) and Self Portrait Poetry Anthologies.  It's was a painful, but profitable process on a Sunday.

Why painful?  Reviewing student project work is intense.  There are many considerations and intense thought about the child. You find yourself evaluating a child's work, your teaching, past efforts and future needs. You want to relay a positive and growth producing response to the work--a response that will affirm a child's effort, voice and creativity while also prompting future study and endeavor.  This effort is also painful because it's the weekend--the time when you'd like to be doing something fun or relaxing.

Yet, while the effort is painful, the result is profitable.  After an intense review of a collection of students' project work, you end up with a much richer understanding of the children, details about next steps in teaching and a project evaluation.  For example, as I reviewed students' personal poetry choices, reflections and writing portfolios, I was quickly aware of those that gave the project extra effort and enthusiasm, and those that gave the project the minimum.  I was also aware of those that struggled with following directions specifically, writing with accurate punctuation, spelling and organization and finding evidence in text to support their connections.  I noticed collective errors and need for instruction too--areas I'll focus on in the weeks to come.  Most of all, I got to know my students better as the design of this project allowed their voices to come through loud and clear--by knowing my students well, I'll be better able to craft the classroom schedule and learning challenges to their questions and interests.

As I move my focus from traditional teacher to student coach, I am aware of the potential feedback has for student learning. As we move our instruction from isolation to collaboration with the inclusion of RTI and PLCs, I'm wondering how our patterns of feedback and communication will change.  Also as we embed new standards and revise curriculum, what role will feedback play and who will provide that feedback?  And, is there any way that we can make feedback and response a greater part of the school day rather than weekend work as the fact that feedback falls on weekends might impact the quality and quantity of feedback students get, which may in turn affect a child's learning success and investment.

I don't have all the answers to these questions, and believe that feedback deserves consideration at our PLC discussions related to student learning.  With collaboration, it's possible that we'll move our practice and result forward with regard to feedback.  Ideas, thoughts and debate are welcome.