Diving into Feedback

As we approached the end of the first quarter, I thought about the feedback I had provided to students so far this year. I take care to give my students detailed, focused and specific feedback about the individual projects they create. 

But, the one thing I don’t ask them to do is to gather up all my feedback and look at it collectively. 

So, I decided to do just that. 

For the last day of the quarter, I created a document that featured some instructions and questions. Here is what I challenged students to do:

1. I had students go to our Google Classroom and gather all the comments I made on their summative assessments that quarter. Students cut and pasted the comments into the document I shared with them. 

2. Once students gathered all the comments together, I asked them to analyze the collection of feedback and consider the following questions:

Put Mr. Deehan’s comments into your own words. 

What areas of concern did he identify?

Do the comments identify the same (or very similar) issues across many (or all) of the assignments? 

If the areas are the same, what happened? Are there any patterns you notice in your work? Why did you make the same errors again? What does this mean for your goal setting for next quarter?

3. Then, I gave students some general questions about the importance of the areas identified in the comments:

I read Mr. Deehan’s comments on my work, but…

This question was designed to provide students with an opportunity to consider any obstacles or challenges that got in the way of their success. This is important as having a clear and honest appraisal of one’s environment and experiences is necessary in order to develop goals moving forward.

And, speaking of goal setting, here is the final question I posed:

I read Mr. Deehan’s comments on my work, so…

This question was deliberately open-ended because I wanted students to really think about the next steps and to leave all the possible options open for them. Forcing students into particular strategies seems doomed to failure. If students are going to adopt a plan, and really buy into it, they need to play a large part in creating it.

When work is graded and returned to students, they tend to look only at the score. They may glance at the comments, but it is the grade that (sadly) matters. Since assignments appear periodically throughout a quarter, students will barely notice the concerns that teachers highlight, but are unlikely to pull a quarter’s worth of feedback together to look for larger patterns. 

By taking the time to dive into all the feedback I produced this quarter, I am showing students a) how important those words really are and b) how we can use them to help us develop action plans to address ongoing concerns. This activity may even encourage students to look for patterns in the feedback provided by all their other teachers. 

How awesome and powerful would that be!

If you have any questions or comments, please send them my way. 

Ed X! 

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