We all need people who will give us feedback.
That's how we improve.
- Bill Gates
Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions in January. By February, some of those resolutions are beginning to wane. The difference between keeping and forgetting a resolution can often be traced to the amount of feedback we receive on our goal. Whether it be the number on the scale, a count of books read, or the steps taken on our fitness app, timely and meaningful feedback helps all of us stay on track.
Writing and speaking in complete sentences is a classroom expectation. Including a reason or detail within that sentence is part of our daily routine. Imagine my chagrin when a student once asked me if that rule included me. Was I expected to write in complete sentences when I commented on their work, including a reason to justify my comment?
Not soon after, I received an appreciation note from a parent. The parent expressed specific examples of why their student enjoyed being part of our classroom community. The note meant so much more than a card that stated I was the world’s greatest teacher!
In the same way, our students need and deserve specific and timely feedback from us in order to grow. An article in a 2014 issue of Edutopia lists 5 Research-Based Tips for providing students meaningful feedback. (edutopia.org/blog/tips-providing-students-meaningful-feedback-marianne-stenger)
1. Feedback should be Specific—A star or “Good Job” on a paper does not tell a student what they have done well. Instead of “Nice Writing” on a paragraph, point out a specific strength. “You placed a transition word in every big idea sentence. These words help the reader understand your reasons in this paragraph.”
Providing students a skill to focus on and improve in their next piece of writing is also important. For example: “You did a great job writing complete sentences. Many of your sentences start with the word “I”. Let’s work to have a variety of sentence starters in your writing next time.”
2. Feedback should be Immediate—The more immediate the feedback, the more powerful it is for student learning. Look for ways to streamline your grading process. Think about grading writing as students complete each portion of the writing process. For example, provide feedback on topic sentences as students complete them. “This topic sentence clearly explains what the paragraph is about. I understand your topic!”
3. Feedback should reflect a student’s progress towards a Goal—Perhaps a student is working on editing their writing, including correct punctuation and capitalization in sentences. Comment on a student’s progress towards that goal. “Wow, I can see that you worked diligently to put a punctuation mark at the end of every sentence.”
4. Feedback should be given Gently—Know your students. Feedback must be given knowing the receiver. Choose words you would appreciate receiving if someone was giving you feedback.
5. Feedback should involve the Student– Students should be involved in choosing what is assessed. This may be as simple as asking students what writing they would like you to assess. “What would you like me to look at in this piece of writing? We’ve been revising sentences. Put a check next to the revised sentence on which you would like me to comment.”
Feedback is essential for everyone. The growth you will see in your students is well worth the effort!