I had a request to facilitate a workshop for principals and instructional coaches examining feedback as an element impacting student learning. I began the session with an exploration of current thinking by having coach and principal share their thoughts in response to these questions:
How important do you believe feedback is to student learning? Why?
What elements make feedback most effective? Less? Least?
What do you observe in teacher feedback during observations of instruction?
What have you seen looking at teachers’ feedback comments on student work, in online communications, in formal assessments and reports?
What is your assessment of teachers’ current understanding and skill in providing effective feedback?
Which teachers need to make what changes in their practice?
With their current thoughts identified, I presented some information taken from, The Power of Feedback , by John Hattie and Helen Timperley (2007). They defined the purpose of feedback “as to reduce the discrepancies between current understandings/performance and a desired goal.” Three critical questions were provided that describe the information students should gain from receiving feedback:
- Where am I going – Feed Up
- How am I doing—Feed Back
- Where to next—Feed Forward
As I considered these questions I was struck by the importance of having standards or goals that were focusing students’ effort and thus a way to use feedback to identify progress and/or how to proceed. Feedforward can set new goals for deeper learning or greater fluency rather than onto more work.
Hattie and Timperley also identified four levels of feedback:
Task feedback is what is most commonly provided to students: it describes how well a task is being performed and usually addresses surface knowledge. Task feedback is most valuable when it is aimed at moving students to process and self-regulating which are more empowering. Process feedback supports deeper learning cueing students learning strategies. Self-regulating feedback addresses how a student regulates his own actions toward learning including investment of effort and willingness to request feedback. Self- feedback, positive, personal evaluation (praise), usually has a low effect on student achievement.
I added this quote from Dylan Wiliam to connect teacher/student relationships to the value of feedback:
“However, the thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Every teacher knows that the same feedback given to two similar students can make one try harder and the second give up. When teachers know their students well, they know when to push and when to back off. Moreover, if students don’t believe their teachers know what they’re talking about or don’t have the students’ best interests at heart, they won’t invest the time to process and put to work the feedback teachers give them.”
Having examined the information on feedback, I asked the school leaders to return to their earlier exploration about current practice in their schools:
What is your assessment of teachers’ current understanding and skill in providing effective feedback? Which teachers need to make what changes in their practice?
The next step was for school leaders to consider what feedback they have been providing teachers regarding the role of their feedback with students.
Could teachers answer these questions in regard to their work with feedback?
“Where am I going?
“How am I going?”
“Where to next?”
We explored leaders’ feedback further:
If school leaders believe that teachers’ and students’ understanding of feedback’s role in instruction and learning can have a high impact on student achievement, they need to identify how their leadership influences feedback.
How has feedback been observed by leaders?
What are teachers’ beliefs about feedback?
What classroom practices build students’ beliefs about feedback?
When should PLC conversations be exploring feedback?
How do coaching conversations with teachers explore feedback?
What is being modeled in leaders’ feedback behaviors?