One of the many benefits of working with a student teacher this semester is that I am freed up from having to “do all the things” for my classes. As she continues to assume duties in the classroom and with students, I am freed up to work on some other projects and explore ideas that otherwise get pushed to the back burner. High on my list is trying to improve methods and tools to provide personalized feedback that helps students grow in their language skills. Our school has been working with the ideas in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, and I’ve been thinking for a while about how I might incorporate those concepts into my classes.
Several years ago, a wise colleague shared the origins of the word compassion with me: to suffer with. This thought has stuck with me because I’m a word nerd, but also because of the idea of “with”–that it is something that is done together. When applied to assessment and combined with my desire to work on changing student mindsets and increasing language skills, I cannot escape the idea that feedback is very, but VERY critical in this process. The feedback needs to be two-way, interactive, and personalized. Yet, practically speaking, it’s also very hard to provide effectively when you have large classes, many students, other duties, and a life away from school. And this is what I’ve tried to address with a feedback tool that I adapted this week.
The catalyst for me was seeing an idea here. While in a different situation, the teacher had a desire to give more feedback to her students and developed a checklist style form to facilitate it. Inspired by that idea, I adapted her form to accompany my intermediate students’ most recent writing assignment comparing a couple of pieces of art. While we have a rubric that we use consistently to assess students’ work, I wanted something that would help us identify specific areas for students to address. I also wanted a way to help students appreciate the degree of their mastery of more specific concepts.
So here’s what I’ve come up with as a working first draft.
NEW on 3/6/15: Download samples of the documents here.
Each of the elements of the form has a specific purpose tied to areas where students commonly struggle.
- In the small boxes on the left, there’s a list of elements that should be in the performance, based on the prompt. One area of concern has been that students simply don’t complete the whole prompt. I’ll check off the areas that they address in their writing.
- Across the top is a proficiency spectrum thanks to JCPS that has our proficiency target highlighted. I’ve circled this student’s performance level for this assignment so that she can compare her performance with our desired target.
- The large grid is for language usage. Here I’ve taken a mix of language from our rubric (variety of topic-oriented vocabulary words and phrases), lexical concepts (connecting words), and pertinent grammatical topics (changing verb tenses).
- For the vocabulary-oriented topics, I want to indicate an approximation of how consistently they are being employed in this piece–and check the appropriate box accordingly.
- For the grammar topics, I also add checks in the “generally accurate” or “accuracy needs attention” box as appropriate. While grammar is not our primary driving force, we are at the point where we need to draw attention to some of the novice-level errors that are still being made. I hope this will help students generate better questions about what they need, and help me understand what areas are still problematic for this student and this class.
- Finally, the last column is color coded to indicate their overall strength in that skill as supported by evidence in the essay. I’m using stoplight colors: green is “good to go”; yellow is “needs attention”; and a red is “let’s work on this one on one”.
- The boxes in the bottom third of the sheet are to allow space for comments.
I’m completing this form for each student, and will have a mini-conference with each one after they’ve had time to review their feedback. I’ll also give them the opportunity to edit their work and incorporate the suggestions I’ve provided as a part of our growth model. I’ve found a few tweaks that I will make for the second edition of the form, and I know that the mini-conferences won’t always be possible. However, I’m hopeful that students will find this experience helpful, and that we will see the growth that we all desire.
How about you? How do you collaborate with your students to provide feedback? What would make this process easier for you? Please share your ideas in the comments!
photo credits: https://readyallrow.wordpress.com/tag/coaching/ and http://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2013/12/19/the-best-gift-leaders-can-give-honest-feedback/