The power of the feedback loop

Note: I have some phenomenal colleagues in my school. One of them gave a powerful presentation about some changes she made in her classroom, and I asked her to write a guest post on it! The kicker: she’s not a math teacher. She teaches French. But pedagogy can transcend the subject matter at hand, and this is one of those cases. So enjoy!

***

When I adopted a no-homework model for my classes several years ago, my role as a teacher shifted drastically. I was no longer strictly giving instruction, but rather facilitating the movement from one activity to the next and offering on-the-spot feedback and answering questions that my students might have. The goal was to remove myself from the equation as much as possible and put the students at the center of their learning. With all of the emphasis placed on class time, it became incumbent on the student to focus completely and participate thoroughly in each activity. It also became incumbent on me to come up with a system that would allow me to objectively and accurately calculate the quality of student note-taking and participation during class.

The rubric I currently use in my French classes was designed to allow for effective and efficient use of class time, which, in turn, facilitates maximum learning. It looks like this:

  • Is punctual
  • Is ready to work at the start of class
  • Takes active notes, keeps an organized notebook
  • When speaking to the teacher, uses French only
  • Engages in activities in French
  • Engages in activities for the duration of the time indicated

Each of the six components is worth 1 point per class day, for a potential total of 36 points per cycle. I designed a page that has this rubric at the top and a box for each day of the cycle underneath, and I keep a copy of it on my clipboard at all times:

IMG_1461.JPG

 

Whenever a student makes an infraction, I point it out to him or her and I write it down immediately in the box corresponding to the day of the cycle. On day 1 of cycle 3, for example, I noted that three boys were not prepared to work at the beginning of class. I also collect the students’ notebooks daily and write down any issues regarding the quality and organization of their written work in these boxes as well. You can see an example of that on day 2 of cycle 3, when two boys passed in notebooks that had missing or incomplete notes. At the end of the cycle, I calculate the points lost and keep a running tally of total points in my gradebook.

 

In my work this year with several colleagues regarding the importance of feedback, it became apparent to me that it would be useful for my students to have the opportunity to see and discuss the breakdown of the information from these pages. So I organized a table that allows for the student to see when and how many points were lost for each component. I also included on the page the overall GPA, as well as a list of commendations, areas for improvement, and suggested challenges. I then scheduled 10-minute individual conferences during breaks and community time to discuss the results. Below is an example of one of these reports :

SEMESTER 1 REPORT CHART 

Student : Jean-Paul de la Montagne

Total Notes & Participation points

  • mid-semester 1 : 139/156
  • semester 1 : 97/108
Total infractions Distribution
Is punctual 1 Cycle 2
Is ready to work at the start of class 2 Cycles 3, 6
Takes active notes, keeps an organized notebook 13 Cycles 2 – 7, 9
Speaks French only (with the teacher) 0
Concentrates on activities / Engages fully in activities / Participates for the expected duration 12 (chatting, following instructions) 3-10

 

  Mid-semester 1 Semester Average
GPA 89.74 94.7 92.2

 Commendations :

  • accurate accent
  • ability to properly formulate full, complex sentences
  • frequently volunteers answers/comments during large group work
  • notable increase in use of French with peers

 Areas for improvement :

  • consistency in the quality of note-taking
  • drop the habit of chatting

Suggested challenges :

  • read Daniel Pennac’s L’œil du loup
  • watch movies, listen to songs in French

 This intensive participation grading model allowed me to remove subjectivity and emotion from my participation grades. It also eliminated the potential for students or their parents to debate the grade. The final step of conferencing with each of my students was the piece I’ve been missing all these years. These conferences yielded almost 100% reduction in the behaviours that hinder productivity and learning, not to mention costing students points.

My ultimate take-away from this experience is that providing students direct feedback on the quality of their notes and class participation resulted in the kind of behaviour modifications that have made for an even more effective learning environment. In a no-homework class where every minute counts, this is key. I am so excited about what this experience has taught me, and am looking forward to refining it in the future.

Advertisements

6 comments

  1. This is brilliant — thank you for writing it and guest-posting. It echoes a lot of my thoughts and experiences from giving students a grade on Professionalism (daily for the first two weeks, then weekly). I cannot count the number of e-mails and conversations this practice has triggered with students, who always say they had no idea that this or that was the impression they were making. Adolescents are just starting to learn about other people’s points of view. I really appreciate the way you make this explicit.

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  2. I am teaching 9th graders who often need these lessons on good studentry (is that a word?). I like the point structure. I use a tick list, which had everyone’s name. This one is better; less time to use! The feedback sheet is an idea I can use. It would help structure that one on one conversation with students, and parent conferences. I want my parents to ask different questions: how is my student’s learning coming along? Not just a grade.

  3. Hello

    I study education science Thank you for this interesting contribution. I read this blog because I am very interested in learning how teachers work. I think it is great that you always try to find better ways to teach your students. What other types of feedback do you use? Do you always have special plans for giving feedback or do you also give it spontaneously.

    1. Hi Tanja,

      This was the first year that I used a formal feedback conference model to talk with my students about their performance in the participation and notes component.

      Otherwise, during class, I am constantly taking notes on what the kids are saying and even what they are doing. At the end of the class, I often take 6 or 7 minutes to share with them some of the sentences that they produced (either on the board or on the smartboard if I’ve typed) and have them correct the errors together. Other times, I will share with them the list of vocab words they may have asked for during the discussion, and have them work on creating new sentences with these words as a way to reinforce their use. The students like these short feedback bursts since it is relevant to what they just did.

      Have a nice day!

      1. Hello

        Thank you for your answer. I think it’s great that you give your students regular feedback.

        I’ve just learned that feedback should be given at the process level and not just at the product level. So not only what was done right or wrong, but to give an elaborate and detailed feedback.

        I would be interested in whether you use this in practice and whether you give feedback on how the students can better guide their learning process.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s