Do you ever geek out over new learning? Sometimes it might be simply a fresh perspective or reminder about using those proven, research-based tools to grow our students. Or maybe you read an inspiring blog post or attend an amazing professional development—and zing! You’re excited about trying something new!
One of the biggest mistakes we teachers might make though, is jumping into the latest trend only because it is exciting or new. One way to know the difference is to dig into whether this “shiny new thing” is research-based, with multiple studies showing that it truly works to grow students over time.
Academic feedback is one such power tool, one that has proven effective year after year. If used effectively, academic feedback is one of the most impactful strategies we can use as teachers. (However, to be sure, if you use it ineffectively, it can cause harm.)
So beginning with this post—the first of a three-part series—I will outline how to begin each lesson with academic feedback so you can use this tool tomorrow in your classroom. Follow the step-by-step guide below and soon you’ll be using academic feedback like a champ.
Step 1. Set a specific goal or objective. Students need to have precise and clear goals to master anything. They need to know what the end product will look like. For example, if you had them write a quick-write from a prompt, but didn’t give them a rubric first, they might write a one sentence answer.
One of the lessons I do at the beginning of the year is to have all of them write an answer to a text-based question. Then I give them a rubric that includes an answer, text evidence, and a conclusion. They then discuss what a “4” (best) answer might look like, before returning to their “one sentence” answer for corrections.
Once the rubric is established, I give them students examples continually to analyze, allowing them to refresh their understanding.
Step 2. Agree on goals. Once students are aware of what success looks like (as in a rubric), I’ll give them their weekly goal and then ask them what they should be able to do and know by the end of week. In math, for example, if they are determining the volume of rectangular prisms, they’ll need to know how to calculate volume but they also need to recognize and know a rectangular prism.
Recently I had my students rate their understanding of a lesson and noticed most of them were saying they understood far more than what I observed. So I engaged them in having a conversation with their pod group to discuss everything they should be able to know how to do to master the objective.
As I began to write everything on the board they realized that they weren’t 4’s in their understanding—they still needed more practice. Laying out the goals allowed them to assess their understanding more accurately.
As such, I often give my students pre-assessments in math to allow them gain clarity of what is expected of them after we’ve had a lesson.
Step 3. First attempt. Once students are clear and agree on the goals, it’s time to allow them to try it. It’s their first attempt—so expect mistakes. That’s part of the learning process.
It’s important to note that we should never grade students’ first attempts, even though they’ve had a lesson, or seen enough of the rubric to agree on goals. They will still need practice. These first attempts should never be graded. Next week, we’ll talk about how to give them feedback (since you aren’t grading them) on that first attempt.
When academic feedback is used consistently and effectively, it can be an enormous power tool in your classroom for growth and differentiation. Academic feedback, based upon years of research, is proven to improve student performance for ALL students, year after year.
I know that you’re one of those teachers that takes new learning and runs with it. For academic feedback, it’s time to run, teacher, run!