Day 14 – What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?
I was really looking forward to today’s post, as I’m certainly going to learn a lot from the ideas that the #reflectiveteacher bloggers share about feedback. It is definitely one of my priorities as a teacher, one of the fundamental features that we have inbuilt in our nature. When we claim that we adopt the roles of monitors and guides, isn’t it because we are able to provide learners with precise and personalised information in order to facilitate their learning journey? When meaningful feedback is missing, no matter how good the materials or the resources are, a learner will be like shooting in the dark.
We seem to build our knowledge on cooperating and using the content in real life contexts, so how can a learner go about without receiving any response to these experiences? How can they develop their language skills if there is nobody around to tell them they communicated effectively or not? That said, a teacher may be considered the traditional provider of feedback, but I would not forget the powerful role of peers who react and also respond to the learner’s words.
But to be competely honest, I need to revise now and then how I am dealing with feedback in class, because I admit that I sometimes opt for the easy way out by saying things like “good job” “well done” “oopsy daisy, be careful with this or that“. But highlighting the mistakes and giving only some general praise or advice may be insufficient, and even misleading. And while it is true that giving feedback on a daily basis in large classes can be quite daunting, it is not fair to limit a learner’s feedback entirely to a grade in a mid-term test, because the information is nowhere near from being informative as to how to identify the gaps and reshape their learning strategies from then on.
It is necessary to design a regular formative assessment scheme throughout the year. The most frequent ways I usually deal with feedback are:
- Correcting students’ oral and written productions on a regular basis. As I explained in New Year New Tech, I will introduce a couple of changes in order to do this more efficiently in class, which is where I could do with some extra ideas.
- Relying on peer assistance (also known as “my classic fiasco”). This is a strategy that has been unsuccessful year in year out in my classes. I have tried modelling examples of feedback, showing them the invaluable help that they can give to each other, and even tried less threatening responses like signalling, o responding with body language. But I am still seeking a formula to get the students involved in giving each other feedback in a relaxed way.
- Mid-term test.
I would also like to point out how important feedback is for me as a teacher. I learn so much from the students in class every day by keeping an eye on their reactions. I also interpret the mid-term test results for my teaching activity, and how it can be improved in order to meet their needs.
I usually carry out an end-of-year survey using google spreadsheets to determine how students felt about their leanring experience and how they rate their own work and the atmosphere in class, etc. I have always found it very useful, because I think students feel free to speak their mind and be honest.
And if there is one thing I have learnt from these surveys is that the information that sticks are the comments and the opinions. I can’t really tell what the classroom atmosphere scored on a scale from 1 to 10, but I do remember a couple of suggestions from students that I took into consideration, for example.
As a conlusion, feedback works best when it is informative and honest and when all the actors involved are perfectly aware of the task objectives, what was expected and what it turned out to be. It is a basic activity for self-reflection and growth.