Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thoughts About Feedback

My guess is that when we first start talking about feedback in the classroom, we probably see it as a teacher-driven activity. The students do something and we tell them if it is right, wrong, or how to fix it. In reading the Pollack book (put it on your Christmas list!) they focus a lot on students receiving feedback from peers and feedback from themselves. Those were two scenarios that I had difficulty wrapping my brain around. Here are some thoughts of mine and from the book:

Feedback From Peers

When I first thought of this, the activity that came to my mind was students doing peer-reviews of papers. That is a great activity, but not utilized daily in every classroom. Further, feedback needs to be timely, personal, and specific. That one activity is not very timely.

So what can we do?

Asking/Answering Questions:  When asking a question, rather than asking it of one student ("Kelly, what is the capital of Nebraska?") ask it of the ENTIRE class. Provide a few seconds of wait-time, and then have the kids pair/share. By doing this, a few scenes might play out. First, the partners might agree and they will have increased confidence in their answer. Second, the partners might disagree and then they would have to discuss how they each arrived at their answer and have to decide which is the correct answer. Third, one partner might turn to the other with absolutely no clue and might gain the correct answer from their partner. Finally, both might be clueless and could raise their hand for a little coaching from the teacher or use the APL "Temporary Pass Option."

Objective Reflection Sheet and Sharing With A Partner: Another pair/share activity, but hey, it is powerful and quick! The kids write the day's objective and then rate their understanding of that objective (1-5). While this alone provides great self-feedback, adding a pair/share element opens the door for a conversation as to why their understanding is where it is. Hopefully, students would say something that might break-loose some details they forgot or missed that would raise the understanding level of one or both instantly.

Sharing Notes: Many of us have our students take notes, and certainly we all have taken notes before. How many times have we looked at our notes and asked "Why did I write that?"? As a processing activity, have students share their notes with a partner. In this activity, kids would have to justify why they wrote what they wrote. Also, the partner might point out something missed, or pick up items they missed themselves. Again, this doesn't have to take long at all and would be one of those activities you could do after 10 minutes of instruction.

Feedback From Self

I have a lot of conversations with myself…maybe I need help…but what if it was planned and organized? 

Interactive Notebooks: When taking notes, have students use a normal spiral-bound notebook. The right page is for the student to write the notes from the teacher. The left page is for the student to reflect on the notes they have written. There is where they paraphrase, draw pictures, write power sentences, or do some processing activity that brings greater meaning to their notes. Again, they are asking and answering the question "Do my notes make sense to me?".

Objective Reflection Sheet: By rating their understanding, effort, and motivation regarding the day's objective, the student is gaining feedback from themselves. "How much do I understand?" "How hard am I trying?" "How motivated am I to learn about this?" Then there are the follow up questions: "Why don't I understand?" "Could I try harder?" and "Why am I not as motivated to learn this?"

Here is a link to the Reflection Sheet. If you aren't a member of my school district, you can email me and I will be glad to send you a copy!

"Fist-To-Five": This signaled response is a great check of the student's understanding. After going over a topic, instead of asking the entire class "Does this make sense?" ask them to rate their understanding on a "fist-to-five" continuum with 5 being high and fist being low. This is better than the "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" technique as it gives you more information. Students can use the following Understanding Rubric:

Understanding Rubric
5. I could teach the class!
4. I can talk about it with classmates.
3. I know it but I have questions.
2. I somewhat understand it.
1. I have no idea!

This rubric is the same one used with the Reflection Sheet mentioned above. You can download both here. If you aren't a member of my school district, just email me and I will be glad to send you a copy.

There are so many other techniques that can be used for both peer feedback and self feedback. What do you do? Please share!

Have a happy day!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feedback: Chapter 4 - Learn To Engage


Chapter 4 of Jane E. Pollock's book, Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching & Learning, is titled LEARN TO ENGAGE. The focus here is on the power of engagement and how we reach ALL students in the class.

Here are my sticky-notes:

Errors are an important part of learning.

Most things we learn in life are preceded with "I'm never going to do THAT again!" True, isn't it? The classroom needs to be a place where errors are embraced and not ridiculed. The over emphasis of the grade book has made errors into "gotcha" moments to thin the herd. It took Thomas Edison 1000 tries before he got the light bulb figured out. When asked about all of those failures, he responded "I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb."

I work with teachers who are embracing the ideal that homework does not go in the grade book. It is practice and every problem is reviewed each day. Sports teams are not ranked based on their practices. Why should we penalize kids' works in progress? These teachers are only putting the summative assessments in the grade book. If they are diligent with providing actionable feedback to the students' "practice," then the summative should take care of itself.

We learn from mistakes. Have you ever heard that before?

Verification & Elaboration

In providing quality feedback, these two elements are necessary. Verification tells the kid if the answer is right or wrong. Elaboration is then needed to guide the student towards achieving the right answer or tackling the next question.

Verification without elaboration is meaningless feedback.

"How was I supposed to teach those students who did not want to be engaged?"

This is a good question and one that we have all encountered. There are kids who put up a greater fight than others, to be sure. But I am going to address one element of this statement: "...did not want to be engaged."

Is it the students' sole responsibility to be engaged? I don't think so. Actually, I think the onus is on the teacher. We have to give them a reason to be engaged. Our subject area is the most exciting thing in the world to us, but not to everyone. And guess what? There are people who will think it is awful for their whole lives. However, we have tools to get kids engaged in the work at hand:

• Pair/share
• Graphic Organizers
• Interactive Notebooks
• Choral Responses
• Signaled Repsonses
• Writing Activities (Yes/No/Why, Think-Ink-Link

The list is endless. If they are not getting in the game, coach, it is because you are not putting them in. If they refuse to do any of those things, there are people in the school who get paid more money than you to deal with that.

Don't fish for them; teach them to fish. But what if they don't want to?

This is linked to the previous idea. We need to cut down on the "Stand and Deliver" model of teaching. Lecture has its place, but he is a roommate with other techniques of teaching. Make the kids responsible for the information and take some heat off of yourself. Here is where we would talk about transitioning from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side," but it is overused. True, but overused.

Instead, here is the moment in my teaching where I let go of the information monopoly:

I was teaching Music History and decided to give something a try. The unit was on the Romantic Era, and I created a Google Doc with the key composers, elements, ideals, and compositions I wanted the kids to know about. I shared that document with the entire class thus making it a WIKI. Here were the rules:

1. Tell me what you think is important about each one of these items.

2. You cannot duplicate someone else's answer (thus, they had to read the other responses. Hee, hee!)

3. You can use your book, internet, my books, or me as a resource.

I watched the document as they typed and would offer feedback if they were getting off topic or duplicating. This was the best lesson I taught that year as the students were far more successful and retaining that information. Why? IT WAS THEIR OWN! I guided them, but they figured it out on their own.

Turn & Talk/Pair-Share = Peer Feedback

If I were to ask you where feedback in the classroom comes from, my guess is that most of you would have the gut reaction of "the teacher." We don't think about students seeking feedback from each other. Pair-Share is the easiest cooperative learning strategy there is and it is so very effective (d=.73).

In many of the classrooms I work with, pair-share is becoming a consistent expectation with every question asked. The old standard way of asking a question generally is like this:

"Cindy, what is the capital of Nebraska."

If your name is not Cindy, then you are off the hook and could care less what the capital of that state is. Only one student, Cindy, is engaged. If you want everyone on the edge of their seat and responsible for the answer, here is what you do:

1. Ask the question.

2. Provide a brief wait time (a couple of seconds will do...)

3. Pair-Share with a neighbor

4. Call on a student to answer the question. (I recommend using the "Popsicle Sticks Method" of drawing a stick with a student's name out of a cup at random.)

This way, no one knows who will have to answer. IT MIGHT BE ME!!! And what happens during the Pair-Share time might be my partner helping me find the right answer. Thus, Peer Feedback and I now have another teacher in my classroom.

To mix it up a bit, so kids are not with the same partner each time, here are some different Pair-Share techniques:

• Clock Partners
• 2x2
• Tripods
• Face Partner
• Shoulder Partner
• North, South, East, West Partners

The learner needs multiple methods to learn and store new material to activate old learning.

How many different methods of learning happen in your classroom? How many of the Multiple Intelligences do you hit in a lesson? If we want information to be retained and accessible, we need to offer material in multiple ways. Again, it cannot just be "Stand and Deliver."

Effect size of note taking is very high! (d=1.00)

I am a bad note taker. But studies show that, if done properly, it can be very effective in helping us learn. What I got out of this portion of the chapter is that teachers need to teach their classes how to take notes in their class in order to be successful. There are many types of note-taking methods. Here are a few:

• Cornell
• Cloze Notes
• Graphic Organizers

The method I think is very cool and effective is the Interactive Notebook. Read on to learn more about it:

Interactive Notebooks

There is no fancy technology needed to make this interactive. The idea is that the student "interacts" with the notes they are taking. Here is how it works:

1. The student has just a normal spiral-bound notebook and a writing utensil.

2. The right-hand side of the two pages is the Teacher Page. This is where the student writes the information the teacher is giving.

3. The left-hand side of the two pages is the Student Page. This is where the student writes their thoughts, draws pictures, or answers questions about the information on the Teacher Side. It is their reflection space. These reflections should justify and clarify what is on the Teacher Side.

I have seen this in some of my classrooms and it is way cool! Some teachers have kids paste graphic organizers or other items into their notebooks. To make it even more effective, have kids use multiple colors of ink. The brain responds to color!

The student's notebook is an important tool of engagement. The must reflect on learning, not just write facts.

Sharing notebooks with peers and having to justify why you wrote it down.

I have never thought of using notes for this purpose. Having kids share their notes with each other is a great way for them to receive peer feedback. If they can't justify why they wrote something down, then it is either not important or they don't know enough about it and need to ask for clarification. It is most likely the latter. Again, the teacher does not need to be the source of that clarification. The student's partner can be that teacher at that time.

Engagement is a means to achievement.

Simple. If no one on the team plays, then they certainly won't win the game.

Consider the classroom from the students' perspective.

Would you like being in your classroom? Record your classes and ask yourself that question. Give yourself some feedback. What things might you be doing that is getting in the way of the students' learning. What habits to you have? What would make the lesson even better?

I am in a band and we record every one of our gigs and listen to them. We are always considering our show from the audience's perspective. Because of this process, we have become a more refined and entertaining band. It actually works!

Have a happy day!