When thinking about effective feedback you want to think about two types: the feedback that you as the teacher gets which informs how you teach the next step and the feedback that the students get which helps them to move forward. The two are, of course, intertwined. There should be a balance of both types. Both are formative because they happen for learning or as learning occurs.
Feedback you get from small group instruction—while watching what students are doing, you are able to see what needs to happen next. This is far easier to do when working with a small group of kids than with the whole class. You can probe deeper to understand what a kid is thinking.
Feedback students get from small group instruction—you are giving on the spot, as they do it help to kids. It is important for learning to get the support on-the-go. For example, if I were teaching you to drive it is far better to have correction as you do it (OMG watch out for that car!), than after the fact (remember when you hit that car, well you should have…).
Feedback you get from little white boards—doing a whole group guided lesson where students practice doing something as you teach it allows you to automatically see who is getting it and who is not. You can adjust your lesson as you go or make a note of those kids you need to work with later.
Feedback students get from little white boards—it always looks easy when the teacher does it. However, if students have a chance to practice the skill while the lesson is happening, they are able to make minute corrections along the way as opposed to trying to make bigger corrections after the fact.
Feedback you get from turn and talk—when you ask kids to turn and talk you can listen in briefly or note how many kids actually do know the answer. You can also observe how engaged the students are in discussing a topic. You don’t find this out when you ask the whole class and rely on students to put up their hands. Many kids know the answer or know part of the answer but don’t put up their hand. Think about the kind of information you get if you do turn and talk and then put your answer on a white board to hold up.
Feedback students get from turn and talk —when students turn and talk to a partner they get feedback from a peer because either the peer agrees or disagrees with their answer. Whenever students have to talk about their thinking or adjust their thinking they are getting feedback. Did my partner understand my reasoning? Am I clear in my thinking? Can I express my thoughts? Does the opposing view make more sense? Have I made an error in my thinking?
Feedback you get from setting goals – When we ask students to set a goal for the term, the activity, the month, or the day, we learn about their thinking with regards to the topic. If a student is able to identify appropriate goals and move towards them, you know they understand the concept. If students are unable to identify goals or next steps they do not clearly understand what is being asked of them and you know what to do next.
Feedback students get from setting goals– When a student is able to set a goal and receive feedback on how well they are meeting that goal then the learning is meaningful and personal. It is far better to be in charge of your own learning than have goals imposed upon us. When students are unsure of which goal to choose, we can offer a menu of goals and have them pick one. As the teacher, you will have to come back to the self-reflection piece regularly. Don’t expect them to do it on their own.
Feedback you get from conferencing – When you find time to conference with students you can probe their thinking and understanding at a very individual level. Try conferencing about only one thing, or stopping the conference as soon as you discover one next step. Then both you and the student find the next step manageable. If your conferences are too long, and you end up with too many goals, both of you will become frustrated.
Feedback students get from conferencing – The student has your undivided attention and an opportunity to explain their thinking. When the student has to explain it, s/he receives automatic feedback based on your understanding. Also, it is an opportunity to learn as you are doing so that the student can apply the feedback immediately.