As I think more and more about feedback, I’m coming to the realization that it is one of the most powerful ways we learn. @royanlee tweeted this about a month ago and I’ve kept it in the back of my mind (mostly because Lexie is trying to walk now but also as one of my professional goals is to give stronger feedback.)
What Royan is telling his daughter is so simple, yet so vital in helping her learn to walk. It makes me think of a recent conversation I had with one of our physical education teachers. He thinks that physical education is ahead of the curve as they always give concrete suggestions for how students can improve their skills. I hadn’t thought about grading in that context before. I mean, I always try to highlight a positive aspect and give at least one suggestion of how to improve, but there have been times where I have been guilty of a “good job” or “improvement shown” without giving any specifics. I think that can be the nature of the beast as an English teacher but I am really striving to move from the general to the specific in terms of feedback.
One of my latest ideas for giving students additional feedback involves the use of a Livescribe pen. Today I spent my entire grade 12 university class conferencing with the students about a piece of writing that I asked them to complete as a practice run for an upcoming essay. While I was conferencing, I recorded our conversations on the Livescribe pen and I plan to email each conversation to the respective student. I also made notes with the pen and will include that feedback in the email. My hope is that the students will listen to our conversations and keep those ideas in mind as they are writing their respective essays.
As this is a professional goal and somewhere where I feel I could improve, I would love to hear how you are providing descriptive feedback to your students.