Feedback

Julie Schlossinger
During the Lower School Faculty meeting recently, teachers viewed Austin’s Butterfly: Models, Critique, and Descriptive Feedback. This video, created by EL Education, a non-profit organization which began out of a collaboration of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound in the 1990s, provides insight for teachers and students regarding how critique and feedback, through the process of multiple iterations, can transform student work. After the video, teachers read Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins and discussed the important and critical components of feedback: goal-referenced, tangible and transparent, actionable, user-friendly, timely, ongoing, and consistent.  
The topic of feedback is one that has been studied quite often in the educational world. John Hattie, an educational researcher and professor, conducted a synthesis of over 1200 meta-analyses related to student achievement in order to uncover which aspects of schooling have the greatest impact on achievement- the student, home, school, curricula, teacher, teaching and learning approaches, and the classroom. He has ranked 252 influences on achievement with their effect sizes. Feedback’s effect size is 0.73 which places that teaching influence into the category of “major positive effects” on achievement.  

So how do Renbrook Lower School teachers capitalize on the feedback teaching approach? First, by digging deeper into the actual meaning and purpose of feedback. For instance, because some mistake advice or evaluation as feedback, we clarified the meaning by choosing Grant Wiggin’s definition- the giving of information about a performance in relation to a specific goal to define feedback across grades one through four. Then we discussed and reaffirmed our beliefs related to feedback vs. grading. Educational researcher, Robert Marzano, explains it best, “Effective feedback provides students with an explanation of what they are doing correctly and what steps they must take to continue to make progress.” Research has shown that evaluative feedback in the form of grades and non-specific statements like “nice work” or “not clear” has little effect on learning and can negatively impact students’ motivation and love of learning (Chamberlin et al., 2018; Ibrahim et al., 2021; Koenka et al., 2021). 

In action, effective feedback looks like this: regular one-on-one student teacher conferences, the use of single point rubrics, the critiquing of only one skill at a time, and regular check-ins. The language sounds like this: “You may want to include more information about the character’s cat such as their name and how they move to help your reader create a mind picture and better understand the problem.” “You might find it easier to read aloud if you add punctuation.” “Is there a tool that would work to solve this math problem?” “I noticed you’ve drawn a number bond like we learned this week in class, and you also wrote an equation that matches your number bond. That’s what good mathematicians do! I want you to continue this great work.” “I see that you included several causes of the Civil War in your PowerPoint, however one of the causes you listed can't be a cause because it occurred after the start of the war. You should review the timing/dates of the causes you listed to sort this out.”  

Ultimately, the goal is to give our students feedback while they are learning, developing, and practicing. Not after a summative assessment. The ongoing nature of feedback, when focused on specific goals, what students are doing correctly, and what steps they must take to continue to make progress, cultivates growth and true engagement with learning. “Confidence comes through building capability, and capability comes through repetition.” – Angela Watson 

Chamberlin, K., Yasué, M., & Chiang, I.-C. A. (2018). The impact of grades on student motivation. Active Learning in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787418819728 
Hattie, J. (2011). Visible learning for teachers. Routledge. 
Ibrahim MS, Yusof MSB, Abdul Rahim AF. Why assessment which carries no grades and marks is the key for the future of education? Education in Medicine Journal. 2021;13(2):91–95. https://doi.org/10.21315/eimj2021.13.2.8 
Alison C. Koenka, Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, Hannah Moshontz, Kayla M. Atkinson, Carmen E. Sanchez & Harris Cooper (2021) A meta-analysis on the impact of grades and comments on academic motivation and achievement: a case for written feedback, Educational Psychology, 41:7, 922-947, DOI: 10.1080/01443410.2019.1659939 
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