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Effective feedback tactics: Back, up and forward!

Four months now since the lockdown began, educators have adapted to EdTech, conducted their lessons and are now looking at students’ assignments and work. This is the best time to recapitulate our learning about effective feedback strategies, and let ourselves and learners grow together!

The journey of teacher feedback to students began with little red stars, and a very good or excellent in our student notebooks. Its next pit stop was at the teachers’ remarks for each subject, level of understanding and classroom behaviour. We’ve come a long way to discussing different techniques of sharing what we observe, and considering it as an assessment tool. Let’s learn how to do it best!

In this webinar, we focussed on the marker of measuring student progress through effective feedback as a part of Highr’s Big 4 of Quality Teaching

Feedback that counts…

Feedback is information that tells learners what they need to do to get where they need to be. It is a process of understanding what it takes to grow; a string of observations; a consequence of performance. 

It definitely is most effective when it becomes a mindset! I still vividly remember how my students and I developed the habit of giving and receiving feedback together. As a Teach for India fellow, we were specifically trained with eye-opening videos of the impact of feedback and imbibing feedback literacy. When I transferred this learning to my students with an added value of being honest with each other, it beautifully backfired! I was taking a Math lesson when one of my students raised her hand to ask me if I didn’t plan for the lesson, because she wasn’t able to understand anything. 

Of course she could only be this outspoken because of the relationships and culture we built in our classroom. The art and practice of quality feedback is directly proportional to meaningful learner-teacher and peer to peer relationships. As an educator, it is also imperative that this practice reaches the other important stakeholder of our learners’ lives, their parents! 

As I write this, I am reminded of every meme and story of how parents respond to their kids. Jokes aside, we all have been once hurt by our parents’ words. And this scenario is a mindset change begging to happen! But, how do we provide parents with the understanding and impact of feedback?

Few ways that worked for me were modelling it in PTMs and events, and what worked really well was letting their own kids lead the way. Students would go home and share stories, not preach, of how we gave them feedback on their work. Feedback as a solution to difficult kid-parent relationships also helped!  

Feedback on student learning

Whenever we talk about review mechanisms, an educator’s most common concern is of how time consuming the process is! This is one of the many reasons why feedback hasn’t found its place in the conventional lesson planning or any pedagogical process. 

Experts, advocates and teachers who’ve used it and seen learning outcomes improve would disagree! Feedback is an evidence-based teaching practice where specific comments and an extending question helps learners go deeper into a concept. 

The HOW of it is what affects its success rate. Firstly, educators must remember that feedback is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There have been times when I have customised small notes on colorful cards for each of my students. Secondly, it is crucial to describe the outcomes or the goal at the very beginning of the year or a lesson. When learners know what they are striving for, feedback is the immunity check that helps them grow! 

HOW of giving quality feedback

Hattie’s feedback model is a powerful HOW: Feed up, back and forward! The first question to ask is ‘Where am I going?’. This is where one designs a success criteria or a benchmark to achieve. Secondly, the focus shifts to ‘How am I going?’: this further breaks down to the task level where educators provide corrective comments to learners and self. This stage also includes a process level where we work on deepening the learning with little tweaks in pedagogy or individual attention. The last step is Feed Forward where we discuss what went well, how do our learners feel, what they need, and enhanced challenges to help them understand a concept better.

What makes it count?

An actionable information matters when it is timely, relevant and specific. Another crucial aspect of quality feedback is the students’ agency to act on it. Have we created an environment in our classroom where students can be open to each other without attacking personally or defending themselves? Are our learners emotionally resilient to give and receive constructive criticism? 

While we answer these questions for ourselves as mentors, let’s also think critically about how we inculcate this habit in our curriculum and lesson planning? 

Also, now that we have acknowledged feedback as a mindset, we all agree that it is a skill that needs to be taught and built. To remember that it’s about observation, and not judgment, is a crucial start! The next is to ask how our learners receive it? Are their behaviours or efforts improving? Are we, as educators, able to identify what we need to change to be able to drive learning outcomes? 

The following steps might be your answer to the above questions: 

  1. Create a culture of engagement and support. Nothing will feed forward without the culture. 
  2. Let’s make ourselves, our learners and our parents feedback literate. The language and technique we use affects impact. 
  3. Model expectations for your students by consistently using the same method and articulation.
  4. Use the most relevant feedback protocol based on your classroom and learner needs. Pick yours below!
  5. Conduct feedback drills with your students and empower them to become experts with their peers. 
Examples of Feedback Protocols

FLOOP your peer to peer feedback!

FloopEdu.com is an interactive support system for educators to give meaningful feedback faster, by using research-based strategies. Students upload their work and peers can provide their thoughts & ideas based on only one criterion for peer review. They answer guided peer review questions, similar to how Coursera works. 

While the feedback is anonymous for students, teachers can review it in real time. With color codes, the teacher can identify students who need to improve their feedback literacy. 

Try FLOOP for easy peer feedback for your students.

The two best components of Floop include a comment bank where you can copy-paste similar comments, where relevant, and students can resubmit their work based on the review received. To teach your students how to learn to give feedback, sign up for these free activities. 

Nourish and nurture your learners’ experience with creative, constructive and crucial feedback, one that helps them love learning and improve their goals! Here’s also a crisp visual summary made by our educator, Ms Lovey Gupta, who attended the webinar, gear up for the next one and share with us!

Watch the full webinar here:

Making Feedback Count

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