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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Providing Feedback to Students on Formative Assessments

WHAT TO FEEDBACK ON AND HOW MUCH TO FEEDBACK

The fundamental question we have to ask in providing feedback is “what are my learner’s needs?” If you are marking a formative assessment/assignment and you know who has submitted the assignment, a good starting point is to recap your students’ learning needs. For instance, some students need help in articulating their ideas- even if they know the concepts.  So observe your students, be familiar with them and their learning process and know what their needs are. Only then can you tailor meaningful feedback to your students. I know of colleagues who had a profile of each student – what sort of help the students needed, what their marks were in each assignment etc- all compiled in one excel sheet. Keeping track helps.

Once you know students’ learning needs and know what to look out for, you can tailor the message you want to deliver to the students. As you read through the students’ assignment, you will start formulating that one thing that you want your students to work on- It could be about improving spelling, it could be about learning how to organize the ideas, it could be about just handing in the work on time- You will have that one message to bring across to each student. And you know what- that is probably what is needed for a start. Then, you can also see if the student has managed to overcome an earlier challenge or if he/she needs a different kind of support. So in this case, the feedback could be seen as continuation of the previous feedback.

Now, some students could be way ahead, and you may realize that giving them detailed or extensive feedback is useful. In that case, go ahead and give them a detailed feedback. On the other hand, you may have a student who seems clueless. It may actually be better to meet up with the student in person and discover his/her needs and help him/her in their learning journey.

WHEN TO PROVIDE THE FEEDBACK

Timely feedback is important if we want the feedback to be meaningful. I have discussed this in one my comments earlier.

Giving back a feedback 2 weeks after assignment could mean that the students have forgotten about the assignment.  The longer we take to hand back the feedback, the likely chance that students could be more distant to the assignment. Hence the feedback may not be helpful when it is after an extended period of time. If there is an opportunity to discuss the feedback with the students, it would be even better. We could start with those who really need the help or who seem to be proactive in reaching out and seeking help.

Another aspect of promptness could be in the way we give/write down the feedback. We don’t need to wait till the end of the assignment to give a feedback summary. We could give the feedback in the margins as we mark. This immediacy in feedback will help students to learn as they scroll through the marked assignment.

HOW TO PROVIDE THE FEEDBACK?

One last question we will discuss today is how to provide the feedback- should we be honest? And tell the student that the work was bad? Well, we should be honest- but we do not have to be brutal. Telling the student that the work was bad does not help the student- It does not motivate the student. And it does not bring the student to the next level. If the student had known how to work on what he had to, he/she would have most likely done that already! If  we as teachers think that the issue is that of attitude, then that is what we should be working on (and not the assignment).

Telling the student to change the attitude is probably not going to be as effective as understanding the reasons for the attitude. I can hear some saying that “But, it is too time consuming.”  Yes, I agree with you. Hence it is important to identify the real problem/issue in providing feedback. Otherwise it becomes a case of giving the right medicine for the wrong sickness. Also, we need to ask if symptomatic treatment is sufficient or the diagnosis and treatment of root cause is needed. In this process, we may realize that we may not be able to treat the situation at our end!

Now, is it possible to provide a honest feedback that is motivating? My answer will be “yes, if the feedback is objective and in positive tone using encouraging words.” In providing constructive feedback, we can outline what was good, why it was good, what could be improved and how it could be improved, instead of just focusing on what needs to be improved. And remember to focus on the assignment – the feeback is on the assignment – not the student.

One way of packaging the comments is using the sandwich priciple of starting with what was good in the assignment and why, followed by what needs to be improved and how to improved, finishing off with the overall comments in encouraging words.

And yes, even if students had done well, it will be helpful to let the student know why the work was excellent.

So here is a quick summry of the various points discussed in providing feedback.

Before you start

  • Know your students’ learning needs
  • Know what is expected in the assignment – assigment rubrics/ learning outcomes (not mentioned but assumed this to be true)
  • Ensure feedback is timely

As you mark and write your feedback

  • Address student’s learning needs
  • Addess the real issue
  • Focus on the assignment (not the student)
  • Start with one key aspect that needs improvent
  • Provide feedback in context
  • Provide honest feedback
  • Provide objective feedback (outline the strength and the weakness)
  • Explain
  • Show students how to improve
  • Be positive
  • Use Sanwich principle

If you have any other suggestions, do share with us 🙂

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3 Comments

Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Effective teaching, Providing Feedback

 

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The Poison in One Line Comments/Feedback

As a student, how many of us have gotten back compositions or assignments with red underlines and just the marks, with minimal comments such as “Needs improvement” or “Could have done better” or “Great job”.

I am sure that many of us would have received such comments. And what do we normally do? Take a look at the marks and comments, purse our lips and file the paper. And the same routine will be repeated for the next assignment.

But wait! What is the purpose of the red underlines? What is the purpose of the grades? Why are we going through this routine?

Students need to ask themselves why they are getting what they are getting and most importantly, teachers would have to ask the same too- but slightly rephrased. What is the purpose of drawing the red underlines? What is the purpose of giving some grades? The answer is that “we want our students to learn.” Fair enough.

But  it is not enough to just say, “Needs improvement” or  “Could have done better” or “Great job”. We need to actually help the student realize what he/she needs to improve and how to improve. If we as teachers are not able to articulate what is needed to be improved in our students’ work, how can we expect our students to know it on their own?

It is imperative that we not only help our students identify what is wrong with their work , but that we also help them understand how they could improve their work. On the other hand, it is also essential to help our students understand what they had done well and why.

Next post, we will see some strategies to provide useful feedback.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Effective teaching, Providing Feedback

 

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Feedback and Evaluation: Are they the same?

Feedback is known to be important for learning. It is generally agreed that giving effective feedback is an essential teaching skill for all teachers. However, teachers  tend to evaluate than provide feedback. Here is a very informative video from You Tube which details how feedback compares with evaluation.

 
 

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Is Memorizing Bad ?

 I wanted to do this blog as my students often tell me that there is no need to memorize. I felt that I needed to put down my thoughts on this.  The trend in teaching and learning these days seems to advocate no memorization. However, I think we need to reconsider this.

I think that memorization is needed for a start — because it enables and aids the thinking the process. The basic units of learning such as facts relating to concepts need to be remembered. However, there needs to be understanding too. For instance we need to remember that chloroplast is needed to photosynthesize and that it is green in colour. This will lead to questions such as why is it green, which in turn will lead to more facts/information that may need to be remembered to understand how plants produce food from sunlight using chloroplast.

While memorization of facts with understanding will be helpful, memorization of texts will not be helpful. Once the words have vaporized from memory, so will the knowledge –this is superficial memorization. The test of memorization would be to see if we can explain the same fact in our own words. However, we need to ask ourselves several questions regarding the fact  and answer them to ensure understanding. In a way, memorization with understanding is like knowing many facts and knowing the interconnectedness between the facts.

I think the trouble is when we have arguments that what is needed is understanding, there is so much facts available on the internet and in the books that we do not remember– all we need to do is just know how to access.

While this perspective seems logical, here is what we are missing.

Yes, facts and information are available everywhere- we have an overload of information. However accessibility of information does not mean automatic knowledge of the information. There is a need to search for the information, identify the information, verify if the information is true etc.

However, if these steps had been done earlier and the information has been stored in our CPU (our brain) instead of the computer’s CPU, the accessibility is likely to be faster. If we need to search for the information each time, we are not using our system efficiently.

I think it is not just about the speed- but that the network for accessing information is also strengthened when we use our memory-patterns become ingrained into our system this is likely to help us in putting together the relevant information/ideas/concepts together. If the patterns are sound and generally applicable, it will help us become efficient at making sound judgments. However, we must remember that we cannot have 100% generaizability and errors in making judgments should not be blamed on memory alone.

Overall, I think we still need to encourage learners to know the basic facts and information.But we need them to know the interconnectedness between the facts too. I think this is where mindmapping helps.

Another point is interest/liking.  If we like a certain subject, knowing the facts becomes automatic. Say that we like a certain piece of music, there is no problem remembering the music piece. Next we may even find out all about the musician and remember facts about them. And then we may explore why the musician makes a certain type of music- the layer and layer of information gives a certain understanding.

Here is the final thoughts on this

If memorization is considered to be not needed,

If memorization is not bad or detrimental,

If memorization could be good

If memorization with understanding would be even better,

Why not try to find out more on how to do this?

Here is another article on a related theme.

http://www.teachingprofessor.com/articles/learning/memorization-it-isn%E2%80%99t-all-bad

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 2, 2011 in Just about anything else

 

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