Teachers are used to thinking of ‘feedback’ as something the teacher gives to the student. The red scrawled ‘see me!’ and the check list rubric alike. More powerful than any of those is the feedback students give to their teacher.
With the right feedback, teachers can plan their activities for the current needs of their students. Without it, you can only give them tasks that are aimed at the average for their grade level. This is only going to work for some of them.
How can we get more feedback?
Here is an exit ticket file. I like to use these every now and then to see how things are going.
Not only do I get feedback about what they have learned and how they feel, I get feedback about how self-aware they are. I get a lot of “What I might need more help with: EVERYTHING/NOTHING!” at the start but they get more specific as they mature and get used to the process.
I work in an IB school and a major part of the International Baccalaureate is reflection. At the end of the unit, we had a final assessment reflection cover sheet which I have adapted a little as an experiment.
At first, I asked questions that got a lot of “I’m not sure what you mean by that” responses. Now I am asking things like “What can you do to get better at learning” and “What does [this concept] mean to you when used about the topic we just studied” and I am getting some interesting feedback.
Again, I’m also getting great feedback about how my students’ self-awareness is developing.
Kahoot! (and other quizzes)
If I can make a game out of giving or receiving feedback, I am all for it. The beauty of Kahoot is that you get feedback from everyone and they are motivated by having fun.
Getting them to write quizzes gives you twice the insight: first into the questioners understanding and then into the class’.
If you want to know what students really understand, ask the question, wait a few seconds and then draw a name at random. You can write their names on index card or lolly sticks, you can make a looping powerpoint presentation with student names on the slides, you can spin around in a circle, you can close your eyes and jab your finger at the register. However you do it, if you take a large enough sample, you get to know how students are doing. By waiting for volunteers, you get a self-selecting sample of keen students and by picking students yourself, you choose ones you either want to use the question as an opportunity to remind them to focus or ones you know know the answers so you can move on to the next bit.
Make students ask questions
At the start of the unit- ask them to write questions they have about the topic for homework. You will get to see how much they already know and what they are interested in.
In the middle and the end of the unit- ask them to write quizzes or make games that test the content and concepts. You get to see a lot about their understanding by how they apply it.
One eye opening technique is to ask students to change the words of a song to explain a concept. You get to see a LOT about how much they understand. There’s something about having to force an explanation into a rhyming scheme that makes a person have to show what they really know.
In preparation for a lesson where my students had to convert “Take me to church” into a song about ionic bonding in salts, I watched an enormous number of ionic bonding songs. Interestingly, most of the student written ones started with a verse about “if you want to pass a test then…” and the teacher written ones started with stuff about electrons. My students were fixated on the neutralisation reaction from which salts can be formed.
Open up a classroom wiki or similar. Set tasks for them to submit comments on their peers’ work. Set tasks for them to write their questions in the forum and answer each other.
These social opportunities give you a big insight into their communication and social skills, as well as their academic performance.