Sometimes new learning can feel thrilling. But it can also be daunting. A new strategy or idea may inspire us, but as we try to implement it into our classroom, we may get stuck, feeling frustrated when our students don’t succeed as easily as we expected.
I remember recently implementing guided math instruction to differentiate for all my students. That approach seemed a little daunting and I made mistakes, like not emphasizing basic classroom procedures enough before they were “forgotten” when I changed how I was teaching math in small group. But I had a path given to me by a mentor so I knew the steps to follow.
New learning is like that. We—just like our students—make mistakes as we learn. But knowing our goal and having a set path to that goal can empower us to minimize those mistakes. That’s what academic feedback can do for us when we have a known path.
Academic feedback done effectively is THE hinge that connects what you are teaching to the learning process. It’s one of the largest power tools you can have in your teacher toolbox for differentiation and growth.
If you follow these steps (your path) I began in last week’s blog post, adding it to this week’s new learning, you’ll feel confident in your own abilities. Your next step is peer review.
Step 1. Peer Review (or Student Reflection). Based upon a rubric or at least a set of given criteria, students will look at their work (or the work of another student) to decide where they need to improve. If you teach elementary grades, many will not quite be ready to grade themselves. Peer edits work best for my fifth grade classroom and likely for any younger students.
Students are really good at finding fault with another’s work, but it’s naturally more challenging to find fault with themselves. That’s why peer editing works so well.
That said, student-to-student feedback can be challenging if you don’t give examples of what the outcome should look like or have a rubric. For example, with a quick write, I have a rubric for students to grade each other’s work, supported with providing example AND non-example quick writes.
As part of their center work, I assign my students a quick write, then they must get peer feedback. At the beginning of the year I often designate a few students to be editors for the quick writes. As the year progresses more students are able accurately assess another’s work and improve their own in the process.
Step 2. Make corrections. After peer editing, students make corrections to improve their work. There’s a big difference between merely receiving feedback, and having to take action to correct based on that feedback. Don’t let your students passively listen to what’s missing–require them to make those corrections and fill in the gaps. That’s when they will begin to understand what good writing looks like.
But making corrections works for more than writing. When my students are learning a new math skill, showing their work to another student, who can more easily find where their thinking went wrong, reveals mistakes far faster than one student checking his work alone. And just like with writing, making corrections to math problem errors will cement those new skills in place much more thoroughly than simply looking at them.
Follow the steps outlined for you here, and you’ll continue on the path to real success with academic feedback. This technique is one of those power tools you can use year after year to grow your students, and your impact!
Coming up next week…it’s teacher feedback time!