Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reflecting on Feedback

30 Day Blogger Prompt: What is feedback for learning and how well do you give it as an educator.

Probably the most powerful piece I've ever seen on feedback is this clip called Austin's Butterfly where Ron Berger from Expeditionary Learning "demonstrates the transformational power of models, critique, and descriptive feedback to improve student work. Here he tells the story of Austin's Butterfly. 1st grade students at ANSER Charter School in Boise, ID, helped Austin take a scientific illustration of a butterfly through multiple drafts toward a high-quality final product."

In this clip,  Ron helps students learn to provide feedback to each other.   I'm a long way from being a master of teacher and can't hold a candle to Ron Berger, but I've been doing a LOT of thinking about feedback over the past few years and continue to reflect on this.   

In some ways I feel it is my role is  to  create an instructional design models that leads the students through many different feedback loops. 

If you want students to learn to write, you need to have them ‘read’ a lot until they start to understand what good writing looks like so they can  create good pieces of writing.      If you want them to  be able to compose good music or create great art, you need to start the process of having them experience good music and good art and identify what is good about it. 

Thus the first way I might give students good feedback is to provide them with examples and models of what we are striving for. 

The  next step is to create a place in the instructional design for the student to get feedback from other learners and  for that student to provide other learners with feedback.  The process of peer feedback engages all members of the group in the feedback process and helps them be able to look more critically at their own work. 

The next step is to include in the instructional design a place for the students to reflect (thus in some ways providing themselves their own feedback)   Sometimes I do this by having them participate in creating a rubric for themselves or collaboratively create a rubric that the class will use.    

One of the ways I provide feedback to students is to hold up a mirror from a different angle so they can see the big picture and their place in the big picture.  

In teaching online,  I frequently will summarize an online discussion at the end of the week.   Another method that I use is to create an artifact that includes pieces of everyone’s individual artifacts so they see themselves as part of a whole (usually magnificent bigger piece of learning).  

When you think of  the student/teacher ratio, and the actual minutes per student available for a direct teacher/student ratio,  I think the best thing I can do is to use most of my time to provide feedback loops  from multiple directions and multiple avenues to get information about your performance. 

The two things that I don’t do well with is a student who expects  YOU/ the teacher to be the primary sources of feedback and dismisses all the other avenues that my instructional design sets up for feedback to come from a variety of sources.  

I find one of my biggest challenge is to refrain from being the source of the feedback for my students.  I try to wait until a dynamic of giving each other feedback has grown in a group before I add my feedback.  Sometimes that requires a longer wait than I'd like.  This is an area that I continue to ask questions about as an educator and frequently vary my approach, constantly seeking the right combination of  feedback elements in my instructional design. 

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