These weeks can feel like a whirlwind of activity for us teachers. Meetings, after-school events, and plenty other activities can blow us off course. However, when we rely upon solid, foundational tools—like academic feedback—we can weather any storm.
Last week I introduced you to using student-to-student feedback after you’ve set clear expectations for your students. Now it’s time for you to step in, with teacher feedback.
Teacher feedback—within the structure of effective feedback—can grow students exponentially. For example, in John Hattie’s meta-study of hundreds of thousands of students, effective teacher feedback had an effect score of 0.72, where 0.4 defines “average growth”. So you can see that teacher feedback is one of the power tools to grow ALL your students, year after year. But what does teacher feedback look like?
Teacher feedback consists of three essential qualities. It must be timely, corrective, and free of frustration.
Teacher feedback needs to be timely. Grading papers and writing feedback isn’t effective. For students to make corrections and learn from their mistakes, feedback must happen immediately.
That may seem daunting, to give all your students individual and immediate feedback. However, it’s not as challenging as it seems. First, not allyour students are going to need feedback. Second, you can provide feedback during small group, or circulate as they work independently, giving feedback exactly when and where you need to.
For example, with my math small groups, I have one particular group where each student is completely unique in their learning challenges. Their individual challenges are quite diverse. Nevertheless, while they each work on individual problem sets, I can give feedback to each of them on the errors they make, and why they are making them, one by one. Even with a wide range feedback that I need to give, I can do so in that setting. It’s simple and effective.
Teacher feedback needs to be corrective. All teachers can spot mistakes, so being as specific as possible shouldn’t be difficult. You need to say EXACTLY what they’re doing wrong so they can make corrections. Simply saying “try again” isn’t effective feedback. Students need to know exactly what they are doing wrong to learn and grow.
Feedback is not Frustration. It may seem obvious that “feedback is not frustration”, but being frustrated when our students are having difficulty, just not “getting it”, is perfectly normal. You need patience to grow ALL your students. Just remember, if you want truly to grow ALL your students—and you do—then you need to demonstrate patience and compassion.
For example, I had a handful of students who hadn’t mastered long division or multi-digit multiplication—and many others who were very rusty. So I decided to re-teach this small group of students. I spent three days in small group, modeling and practicing. I gave them corrective feedback over and over again. They even had to show me their problems when they were working in centers, one at a time, so they didn’t rush ahead, turning in incorrect problems—as they were prone to do, just to get it done.
I had almost 100% mastery. Two students had too many problems to do—so they rushed and made mistakes. I recognized it after the fact. Instead of getting frustrated and just letting it go, I gave them each four problems to do. Guess what? They got them all correct. That’s when I graded.
Instead of giving up on them (awarding an F) and leaving them feeling deflated despite all their hard work, I gave them confidence in their own abilities—and the desire to try harder and even more.
Teacher feedback—done immediately, patiently, and specifically—grows ALL your students. Imagine being that teacher who changes lives because you took the time to use the power tool of academic feedback! Now, that’s a teacher super power!