Note: This post is part of the Teaching 2.0 Masters in Curriculum and Instruction Program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. My current classes are about Project Based Learning and Assessment. This synthesis essay is intended to focus on effective feedback.
The deeper I have moved into project based learning, the more I have seen the power that true feedback wields. When my students are engaged in a meaningful (to them) task that is challenging and engaging, nothing can stop their learning. When I see a community of learners pulling together towards a common goal, I see amazing growth from everyone in the group.
This is where feedback becomes the core of what I do as a teacher. Whether I’m facilitating a whole class critique session or simply giving informal verbal feedback to a student in passing, this mentoring is absolutely essential. I constantly push myself to set up projects for my students that make feedback and revision an authentic and central aspect of our process.
Critique is one of the best ways to provide feedback to my students. In a whole class critique session, my students see aspects of quality work modeled by their classmates while also discussing how to make that work better. In a peer critique or galler critique session, all students get feedback from their peers to help improve their work. In these models, they also see examples of how their peers are attacking the task; this can help them get past sticking points. Teaching students to give effective self and peer feedback is the best way that I can effectively and efficiently ensure all students get feedback.
I recently read (okay skimmed) a study titled “Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback.” This study found that as one’s expertise grows in a given area, he or she seeks increasingly critical feedback to improve performance. From this, one can infer that novices (i.e. students) desire and need more positive feedback in order to see what they are doing right. As their knowledge grows in a given content area or skill, they need increasingly critical feedback in order to move forward.
I taking my lessons from critique and from this study (and other similar articles I’ve encountered) and using them to continue to hone my feedback skills. When I give students feedback, I tend to use the “Notice, Wonder, Suggest” format. In other words, I point out things that I notice about the work, ask questions and make suggestions for improvement. When kids give each other feedback, I usually coach them to use “Praise, Question, Suggestion.” Both of these formats exist to make sure that kids get some indication of what they are doing well along with some ideas for improvement. In the future, I plan to intentionally point out the things that they are doing well when I give early feedback (or to kids who are struggling).
The great thing about this post is that I am giving myself feedback on my feedback technique as I’m writing it!