This year my action research was focused on feedback. It started with asking for feedback from my colleagues (see here and here) and then asking for feedback from my students (see here) and finally student-driven feedback loops. Here is a bit of history:
Before the school year began, I set a personal (SMARTish) goal of improving formative feedback strategies in order to increase student ownership and growth (I made a point to prioritize ownership over growth - more on that later). After committing to this action research I pulled ideas from some of my favorite thinkers:
Advancing Formative Assessment - Susan Brookhart and Connie Moss
Mindset - Carol Dweck
Visible Learning for Teachers - John Hattie
Practice Perfect - Doug Lemov
Brain Rules - John Medina
In earlier posts I referenced changes in my feedback methods but there also was a change in my feedback mindset. Feedback couldn't just be something that was given and received, feedback had to become part of our classroom culture. Something that we lived, needed and loved. In order for us to trust this system, we needed to own the system to allow the system to work. How did we do this? Time and practice, making mistakes and trying again. Ownership. We outlined a few attributes of feedback that we wanted guide us through the process:
Focused: Feedback should be focused on the specific lesson aim. If we were working on identifying reasons to support our claim all feedback had to be related to that aim. That means if there were spelling mistakes, suggestions for word choice or grammatical errors we had to overlook them and stay focused.
Reflective: The way you phrase feedback is important. Feedback is not a judgement, feedback is a tool.
Heart words: I liked how you...
I loved when you...
Brain words: You might want to try...
Have you considered...
Feeds Forward: We always tried to remember that the purpose of feedback was to get better. To learn, to revise and to grow. My students knew about the golden second opportunity, one of our favorite phrases was "back to the drawing board!" Feedback moves us forward.
There was one extremely simple and unexpected tool that made all the difference with student feedback, the heart and brain stickers (pictured here). Students could use the physical sticker to provide feedback but overall they provided a subtle physical reminder of our attributes. They also gave us a common language which really helped us take ownership over the feedback loops. If a student gave me positive feedback during a mini-lesson in Writing Workshop I would ask for a brain as well. And then they could see the growth that followed the feedback. This also gave them a model to ask for feedback. I can't even begin to describe the joy that I felt when hearing students ask one another for feedback. Listening in on those discussions, hearing them reference the feedback during a share and showcase how their work grew was at times, unbelievable.
This was an active process, a year-long journey in feedback with ups and downs just like any other adventure. There were times when I doubted myself, doubted the effect that this would have on my students and just wanted to give up. But then I remembered ownership. This would not work unless I owned the process as well. Seeing my students empowered to ask for feedback, sharing great ideas and encouraging one another to take risks was the feedback that I needed along the way.
I could dedicate many a blog post to my action research but I want to know what YOU want to hear.
Do you want to hear about some bumps in the road? The turning points? How I differentiated this process? More about student-driven feedback loops? Is there life after feedback?