Recently I conducted a round of student surveys. In this survey, we ask students to rate us on a scale of 1 (not great) to 4 (pretty darn good) in 8 areas, which are shown in the figure below:
In every class, one of my bottom two scores was in the category, “In this subject, I receive regular and timely feedback about what I am doing and where I need to improve”. My average across the 6 classes was a whoppingly disappointing 2.55 out or 4.00.
This rang alarm bells for me. High quality, timely feedback is essential for learning. Further, for feedback to have an impact, students need to be able to use it to improve. So, what might be some strategies for giving more timely feedback in the classroom so that students feel that they know what they need to do in order to improve? Five thoughts are given below. None are revolutionary or particularly innovative or clever. However, hopefully, if implemented, they might help me give students more timely and constructive feedback:
- Choose a high leverage question that students are currently completing in the workbooks (You don’t have to look at every question of make everything in a book! That can be daunting for students, lacks specificity and takes a lot of time). Go around and visit every single student during a lesson and ask to see their answer to this question. For students who have got this wrong, it will immediately give you a chance to address some misconceptions. For those that have got it right, there is a chance for some praise and perhaps a follow up question. This is a quick, simple process (it can take as little time as 10 minutes whilst students are working on a task!).
- Use whole class feedback for an assignment. There are plenty of articles on this process. For a couple of good ones, see here and also this one. I used this for an assignment recently (see here for the feedback marking grid I used). When marking work, I will take great examples and add them to a whole class feedback grid. I will also take examples of common mistakes and add them in. I will then ask students to study their work and annotate it using the whole class feedback grid. A nice follow up is to then ask them to write a blog post on three things that they will change for next time (this works particularly nicely if the assessment is on something they will look at again, for example, coursework). Whilst students are doing this, you are free to go around and answer specific questions or speak to specific students about things you saw in their work. For certain assignments, this has significantly reduced the time is takes me to get feedback to students. (p.s. Thanks to my colleague, Gemma Dawson, @Elfdaws, for introducing me to this one.)
- Help student understand what feedback is! A lot of the time, students think feedback has to be written. They don’t realise that you are feeding back to them every time you ask them to answer a question or every time you walk around, glance over their shoulder and notice something they have got wrong and help them see why. If they don’t realise when they are getting feedback, then they can’t take action to improve!
- Build a “Lingering Questions Padlet” into your classroom routine (if you don’t know what padlet is or would like to see some other cool ways to use it, see this great article from Nicki Hambleton). This is something that I have been using to great effect. In the student feedback survey, most students love it. I will ask students to add at least one or two questions that they have onto the padlet (how you generate these questions can vary). I will then ask them to go through and do three things. First, I will ask them to add a “me too” comment on any question that they would have asked as well. Then I ask them to ‘like’ any question that that would like to see answered. Thirdly, I ask them to try and answer each other’s questions. After this process, I will order the questions according to the number of likes and go through three questions (I use to go through them all, but for some students, this is tedious). I will then turn these questions green to indicate that they have been covered. For the other questions, I will offer students to come to the front and go through them with me, letting other students get on with work. The benefit here is that students feel heard as they ask their questions and get feedback. They feel safe as they see other people have questions too and indeed, they see that other people have the same questions as them. Further, seeing their question liked gives them the confidence to ask more and more questions.
- Complete weekly or biweekly quizzes. Again, this is not revolutionary, but it helps students get quick and timely feedback. How might this work? My vision at IB is to create a set of weekly quizzes (an idea taken from my Head of Science, Andrew Ware) of past paper multiple choice questions. Each quiz will probably have a maximum of 5 questions. The aim here is not to assess lots of content. Instead, its to allow students to address misconceptions a little bit at a time. Having fewer questions also allows you to focus in on poorly answered questions much more easily, and thus give more specific feedback. Further, having just 5 questions makes it less daunting. Another idea might be to have a weekly hinge question. Students could answer through a google form, and then you could speak to individual students that got the wrong idea or ask those students to come to the front for a quick workshop. Simple, quick and effective.
This list is not exhaustive and each has their flaws. I am looking to try them out with intentionality to see how they work. I would love to hear your thoughts here! What are some effective strategies you have found for feedback that are both timely and allow students to improve?