Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feedback Chapter 2: Positive Deviants

Hi all!

This post contains my reflections on chapter 2 of Jane E. Pollack's book, Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching & Learning.

The idea of being a Positive Deviant is to be a teacher that will make small changes in the classroom to increase student learning. Often times, as the book points out, those changes are based on things that are "invisible in plain sight." As a former music teacher, I liken this to "podium deafness" which is when I would constantly hear a wrong note, constantly not fix it, and eventually it becomes so customary that it becomes a "right note."

Pollack's book focusses on the art of providing and receiving feedback, as one of those "invisible in plain sight" classroom tools that go unused or not fully realized. While I have been reading, I am practicing good reading comprehension strategies by highlighting and using sticky notes to reflect. The following bullet points contain what was printed on my sticky notes and I follow with more in-depth reflection.

I hope that's ok! This is as much for me as it is for you :)

• Feedback is not just a teacher action. It is a student action.

As teachers, we are great at giving students feedback, but how often do we teach them to seek feedback? I think we train ourselves at an early age to just wait until someone is tells us how we are doing before we make a personal assessment. As children, we complete a task, the teacher puts a grade on it, and then we decide what we think about that grade and what we should do about it. Isn't that how it goes? So, as adult teachers, how many of us fall into that routine? We wait for the kids to complete a test, project, worksheet, or quiz, and then decide what to do. By doing this, the time for effective Monitor & Adjust has really come and gone. Pollack's book makes the point that feedback can be more prevalent than that, and can be more powerful if it is sought by all parties and acted upon throughout the lesson. So how do we get students seeking feedback and providing teachers with more to act upon? I think that is coming in later chapters :)

• All teachers give feedback. When it doesn't lead to a gain, it must be used differently.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If the feedback we provide students does not lead to them getting better, we need to find a different way to provide it so that it does. Maybe this means aural feedback rather than written. Maybe it means including more peer review in class activities. Maybe it means inviting the student to parent/teacher conferences. Regardless of the change, if the student does not get better based on the feedback the teacher provides, then the teacher needs to find another way. I know it is a two-way street and the student has their share of responsibility, but I only have control over what I can do.

• According to John Hattie, students only receive moments of feedback each day (at best).

Probably so, sadly. When the teacher is the only one offering or seeking feedback, then this makes sense. Further, too many classes are still teacher-driven and a "Sit And Get." When the student seeks feedback from other students, or themselves, then the feedback loop increases.

• Feedback should be tied to goals and objectives...not just task completion.

I would say that we are better at offering feedback when a kid reaches the end of something and give limited feedback along the way. Teachers can take a lot from coaches and how their weeks progress. The athletes are given tons of feedback all week long at practices so that they will be successful in the game. They aren't giving tests or assigning homework. Rather, they are observing the kids in action and helping them to make minor adjustments along the way. If the classroom is strictly (or mostly) lecture based, when can the kid get feedback?

If you ask the student to interact with the goal by writing it down, rating their understanding before, during, and after, then you can better adjust your instruction to meet their needs. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback is one of Marzano's nine high-yielding strategies, but it will only work if done with fidelity, and that means to do more than just write the objective on the board.

• Successful students seek feedback informally

Looking back at my time in the classroom, I see this as true. My most successful students were asking questions in class, stopping me in my office or in the hall, or working with their peers on class material. They didn't wait for the test or quiz to be given or graded. How do we encourage this? Read on!

• 3 types of feedback: Self, Peer, & Teacher (Yuck Spots)

How do we encourage students to seek feedback informally? First, the source of feedback can not just be from the teacher. A great informal source is the student's peers. Another source is the student themselves. Here it is in action:

When I was a band director, I had my students keep a "Yuck Spot Sheet." This was a simple piece of paper that was used by the student when they reached a section of the music they had difficulty with. As we played as a band, if they got to a "I can't play that very well" moment, they were to write down the measure(s) and the basic problem (ie. notes, rhythm, etc.). Then, once a week, I would break the kids up into small groups (4-6) and they would work on each other's "Yuck Spots." The group leader would go around to each person asking for a "Yuck Spot." Then everyone would work on that spot to help that individual.

The "Yuck Spot Sheet" was the student giving them self feedback. The small groups addressing the "Yuck Spot" was the student seeking feedback from peers. It was very powerful!

• Increase feedback by returning to the goal at the end of the lesson.

I am horrible with Closure. Time just runs out. But by utilizing Closure and having the student reflect on the the goal/objective and where they are in relationship to it, everyone will receive valuable information as to what they need to do in the next class to obtain the goal. Students will be more likely to retain the information they learned if they are asked to reflect at the end of the lesson.

• Feedback is not only info regarding progress toward a goal but also a cue to seek more information.

If feedback is only pass/fail, then it really is pointless. Feedback should make an individual take stock of the current situation and devise a plan on how to better that situation. If the student reflects on the lesson and finds that they still are not close to meeting the goal, that should be a clue to them that they need to study more, find additional resources, or do SOMETHING to get them closer. But we need to teach kids this. Perhaps, when they reflect on their understanding of the goal, there needs to be a question saying "What are you going to do about it?"

• When teachers are more in tune with student performance, they are more likely to differentiate their instruction.

How can you differentiate without data? You can't! If you don't have any data, you will just keep doing the same thing. That is human nature. Getting more feedback from the students will make it easier to meet their needs. This doesn't have to come from a test, either. Exit Cards, hand signals, journals...all of these, and more, can provide you with valuable feedback that will help you differentiate. And teachers WANT to meet the needs of every kid. It is just difficult to figure out how, sometimes.

More chapters to come!!!

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