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Sunday, June 07, 2015

Making Student Response Explicit

We know that student response and feedback is imperative to good teaching/coaching.

Yet, we also know that traditional methods of response have been replaced, in many ways, by new methods of response.

For example, traditionally a grade on a paper was a typical kind of student response whereas today it's more likely that a teacher will grade less and provide narrative and/or coaching more in classrooms that look more like active workshops than sit-at-your-seats-and listen models of teaching and learning.

I'm always seeking the best ways to provide response and feedback both formally and informally in order to engage, empower, and educate well. As I think on this subject, the first step is to name the types of feedback/response used.

Informal Feedback

Conversations
I utilize conversation a lot to gauge student needs and growth. I engage in student conversation with the whole class, small groups, and individuals regularly. The conversation usually begins with targeted questions and ends with active response, response that helps a child to become more engaged, empowered, and educated.

Email
I welcome students comments and questions on email. Some students email me regularly with questions, reminders, and ideas while others never email me. I respond quickly to those that email and typically alter the program to meet their needs as relayed via the email.

Surveys
At times I'll survey the students using Google forms or a more informal raise your hand and vote surveys. I find that the surveys work best if they are simple and targeted. I share survey results with students.

Conferences
My favorite form of feedback is the student conference. During the conference student(s) and I will meet to review a particular learning effort. We'll discuss the effort and next steps. This is powerful, two-way learning response that leads to effective teaching and learning.

Observation 
Making the time to observe students gives us the chance to offer informal feedback regularly. Sometimes videotaping a students' efforts and watching the videotape later in the quiet of your home or office, helps you to notice students' needs and abilities with keen attention. Sharing the videotape and response with the students provides effective feedback.

Badges and Certificates
Although I'm not a big fan of badges, I do think that awarding a child a certificate or badge that outlines the skills, knowledge, and concept learned and demonstrated during a learning experience can serve as good feedback for future learning endeavor and conversation about learning.

Weekly Newsletter
The weekly newsletter provides students, colleagues, and families an overview of the learning program's accomplishments and needs. The newsletter tells the story of the teaching/learning year and gives parents and colleagues good information to use in when engaging in conversations about learning with students. The newsletter also invites parents/colleagues commentary, ideas, and questions thus contributing to establishing a strong learning team including students, families, educators, leaders, and community members.

Formal Feedback

Formative Assessments
I create a large number of formative assessments and give those assessments at optimal stopping points as we move along the grade-level curriculum program. I design the assessments so that students have the opportunity to "show off" their learning with writing, problem solving, and answering questions usually on their own and sometimes with a partner or small group. I enjoy looking over the assessments as not only do these assessments demonstrate what students have learned, but they also demonstrate the effectiveness of the teaching/learning program. I use the assessments as one way to inform future teaching/learning events in an effort to help every child learn the core curriculum in ways that are meaningful, targeted, deep, and successful.

Summative Standardized Assessments
We have a large number of standardized assessments that help me to see which students fall within the typical range and which students fall outside that range. I consider the range with respect to our learning community and the greater State or national learning community as well. I do like to have some assessments like this because these assessments do point out the outliers--students who need more or different programming in order to meet their needs for greater and more effective essential skill learning and/or enrichment. These tests also provide me with information on the effectiveness of the teaching/learning content and program with regard to the skills, concepts, and knowledge assessed.

Online Levels and Test Scores
I use a large number of online assessments that are targeted towards practice and testing students' current level with content that is, for the most part, more factual. Students readily see their scores and levels with these kinds of assessments, and when used well serve to inspire students towards greater study and learning.

Standards Based Report Cards
These bi-annual reports give colleagues, parents, and students a snapshot of student performance on system-wide, state, and national standards. These reports also offer commentary on students' main areas of academic proficiency and need.

In the weeks to come, I'm sure I'll add to this list. I also want to think about realistic feedback and response patterns for the year ahead to make sure that every child and family are receiving meaningful, targeted, and inspiring feedback on a regular basis--the kind of feedback that coaches a child forward towards learning success.