Are you experienced (at giving feedback)?

Jimi Hendrix was the original master of effective feedback.  He could use feedback to enhance his music, not just to make your skin crawl.  Think – the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock.

are you experienced... at using feedback for good, rather than evil?

are you experienced... at using feedback for good, rather than evil?

I want to be the Jimi Hendrix of classroom feedback.  I want my students to bounce their learning off of me and I want to send it back to them in a way that helps them to see it differently; to see how they can make it even better.  I want to give them feedback that takes their learning to a whole new level.

Giving students effective feedback is a skill, one that must be practiced and honed.  There is a delicate balance there.  Get it right and it enhances the music of the classroom, like Jimi making his guitar basically sing.  Get it wrong and it sounds to students like a mic getting too close to a live speaker; they want to cringe and cover their ears.

Yesterday, I was rereading Susan M. Brookhart’s “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students” (ASCD, 2008).  A few things jumped out at me that I missed before – maybe I just wasn’t ready for them:

  1. Studies have shown that achievement is higher for students receiving free comments (written by the teacher) instead of letter grades
  2. What is important is not how the teacher intends the comment but how the student experiences it – “as information or as judgment”
  3. Studies have found that feedback improves motivation and performance on divergent thinking tasks, while grades harm both motivation and performance

By the way, this book was published by the notoriously radical Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, in case you were wondering… (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

After reading this, I immediately jumped on my students’ blogs and gave them feedback.  I’m using a pretty simple format, adapted from Joe Bower and some of my past PD from Expeditionary Learning.

  • I notice…
  • I wonder…
  • What if…/ I suggest…

I’m working hard on hitting the right notes with respect to amount, tone, and focus for my feedback.  One of my goals for this year is to stay on top of the feedback, even when I feel like other things are piling up on me.  Sometimes feedback is more important than tomorrow’s lesson!

and so castles made of sand fall into the sea, eventually…

Jimi Hendrix experience album cover used under cc license from Jeff on Picasa Web Albums

7 thoughts on “Are you experienced (at giving feedback)?

  1. Very true. Feedback is one of the essentials in the learning process. More than that, the way in which feedback is given matters. A bowl of vegetables can be offered as such or can be cut and offered as a decorated salad. It makes a world of a difference. Nice post.

  2. Important post, and I am so glad to hear of another teacher using this in their class. Have you heard of Ron Berger’s work? He provides an excellent framework for students and teachers to provide each other with powerfully effective feedback with the goal of refining work. Thanks, I will definitely keep an eye on this post.

  3. Phil –

    I have heard of Ron Berger’s work. I’ve even read some of it! We were an Expeditionary Learning school for my 1st 2 years.

    I love the EL model and would lovto be a part of it again someday. Berger hit the nail on the head!

  4. That’s what I love about his resources that he has disseminated them so openly and made it so easy for others to use critique and feedback effectively in their class.

    Glad to hear that others are using it.

  5. Vytheeshwaran –

    You are absolutely right. How the recipient of the feedback perceives that feedback is crucial. Any hint of judgment and the feedback will be much less likely to lead to increased motivation and improved learning!

  6. Pam –

    You are so right about the power of feedback being underrated. We spend so much of our time planning instruction and grading that we forget to give good feedback. Now that I’ve unencumbered myself from grading, I’ve found that I still have time to plan good projects, gather materials, plan targeted lessons as needed, and give detailed feedback. I really believe it’s starting to pay off in my classes!

    Thanks for the link to Dylan William’s work. I watched a couple of his videos and really enjoyed them!

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