How often do you speak with students?
Better yet, how often do you give productive feedback to students?
I was just hanging out on Twitter with the #formativechat when an idea struck me. How are we, when are we, and how often are we speaking with students and providing specific, productive feedback?
At the end of an assignment?
On the top of an end of chapter/unit assessment?
After they make a series of undesired behavioral choices?
After they make a series of desired behavioral choices?
A few minutes after they begin a new task?
In person at the close of each lesson?
On their report card?
Via email, to their parents?
No matter how frequent, how direct, or how specific to each student your communication and feedback may be, we could all use some improvement. Let me share with you my goals and how I plan to achieve them.
I teach a lot of students; six grade levels to be exact. On top of the sheer number of students I teach, my subject is science. My philosophy of science education (all subjects really), is authentic application based experiences. I call them field experiences, and oftentimes field science. If my philosophy of learning includes authentic experiences, then my assessment of those experiences should also be authentic and meaningful. Even if your pedagogy differs from mine, I believe wholeheartedly, our students deserve more feedback on their learning and metacognitive practices than at the end of a unit on one summative assessment.
We are building thinkers and as such, we need to be able to help them create great metacognitive flow. This is not achievable with feedback only at the end of an entire unit or chapter from a summative assessment. From the moment they first encounter an idea, a concept and begin to grapple with it, what they are thinking matters. How they are making sense of it all, matters. We need to know what they are thinking, what sense they are making so we can help guide them in the right direction. This means we have to give frequent, positive, and specific feedback.
So, how then, oh Wise One? Oh, thanks for asking, but please, you can call me Becky or Schnekser, but Wise One is a bit far fetched for me — I assure you.
My favorite way to give frequent feedback to students is through conferencing. Oh sure, it takes time, and for the record, yes, I heard you scoff and saw you begin to roll your eyes.
Yes. Talk to your students. Better yet, LISTEN to your students. They have so much to say, so much to share, and this sharing will open your eyes to so many things about them that you would never know if you had not stopped talking. You will find out what and how they think and process information. They will shed some light on their personal lives, things they are celebrating, things they are looking forward to, things they are avoiding, or things they are not excited about. Not only can you use this relationship to tackle best ways to reach your students and identify with them, but you have things to check in with them about that are non-academic. This also gives you the opportunity to share about yourself. What are your struggles as a learner? How do you overcome them? What are you celebrating in your life? What are you preparing for?
A few weeks ago, I delivered my first TED Style talk to high school students. I have taught elementary grades for 13 years and as excited as I was to address older students, a part of me was absolutely terrified. I shared with one of my fourth-grade classes about what I was doing, how I was preparing, and I even shared the slideshow I prepared with them before I presented. I did not do the presentation, but I showed them the pictures I would be using. They were very excited to get a sneak peek and to learn that even as an adult, there are things we can be both excited about and nervous at the same time. Something magical happened the afternoon following my presentation. As I was standing ar carline to help students into their cars, several of my fourth graders asked me about my presentation.
They were invested in my journey, as I am in theirs. That is true magic.
My real point is not necessarily that — but the need to really invest in our students in the form of frequent and specific feedback so that they may become to the best thinkers they can.
So, friends — what does this look like in your classroom?
How can you improve upon it?
What’s your plan?
Our kids deserve it.