Day 14: Feedback

What is feedback and how do I use it for learning?  It is already Day 14 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge, so here I go.

I know what feedback should look like.  It should be specific, timely and focus on an area of improvement.  I also know what feedback should not look like.  “Good job” is too general, and even counterproductive as feedback.  Students get the message that their work is good enough and there is nothing more to do.

I know what good feedback is, but the biggest challenge I have is finding the time to give it.  I still find myself writing “Nice work” in a student’s notebook, and even cringe as I write it, but as I look at the pile of 85 other notebooks to check I realize it is sometimes the best I can do.

That’s not entirely true, though.  I try to save time by developing rubrics with students.  We discuss what a quality assignment would look like, design the rubric and paste it into their notebooks.  That way, if I only have time for a quick comment – students can still match a score to the rubric for more specific feedback.  Sometimes, though, I do not think this is personal enough.  I find that students remember and respond to the feedback that is more specific and personal, so I try to give it as often as I can.

I also try to deal with the issue of time by teaching students to give feedback to each other.  There are many experts in the classroom, and I want students to not just rely on me for guidance.

One thing is for sure, I believe in the power of feedback.  I illustrate this to my students by sharing the story of Austin’s Butterfly in this video from Ron Berger.  I just showed it to my students last week and already we have used it as a reference point, saying, “Remember Austin’s butterfly” when a student has run into a brick wall while trying to improve their work.

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