When your students perform a task in class, do they know how they’re doing? If you were to ask them, would they know what they did well and where they could use improvement? For many of us, giving our students feedback is a challenge both because we believe it’s time consuming (“it takes a long time to grade papers!”) and because we want to encourage them with positivity (“Great work!”). Our inhibitions about giving feedback could actually be holding our students back! There are 5 factors to giving feedback that we should checking in with every day:
Sometimes, we need an explicit reminder to do this. We may assume that students know how they’re doing, but have you ever stopped to ask them? Sometimes I take a moment to ask my students about how they performed on a task and they are either too hard on themselves or (at times) far too confident. Even in a task as small as answering a question, let them know how they did!
“Good job!” is one of the most ambiguous (yet popular) phrases that we use in our classroom. “Good job” at what? Sitting? Raising my hand? Speaking at all? All it takes is a minor adjustment to specify what you’re talking about: “Good job sitting so quietly!” or “Good job finding the square root of 774,893,207!”
Make it immediate
The sooner you provide feedback, the more effective it is! It does your students no good when they take a test and have to wait a week to get it back. Whether you give them verbal feedback, write them a sticky note, or hand them an elaborate rubric, try to give your students even the slightest clue of how they’re doing immediately. Peer editing and correcting tests in class is a great strategy for this!
Think of how you would give friend advice. Would you really tell them that their neon green dress with shoulder pads looks great on them? Probably not. There’s no reason you should be doing that to your students! If they bombed a presentation, be honest and tell them why. They can only correct what they did wrong if they KNOW what they did wrong in the first place. If you constantly tell them “good job!” they’ll either believe you and won’t improve, or they’ll know you’re lying and they’ll stop believing you at all!
Keep track of it
Rubrics are great tools for helping us keep track of the changes we want our students to make. If we told them to improve their verb conjugations in the present tense, we should be able to see how they’re meeting that goal over time. Having students self-reflect and keep track of these goals as well is a powerful way to motivate them and have them hold themselves accountable for their own learning. They’ll learn to set goals and reach them.
Remember: Say SOMETHING, be specific, make it immediate, be honest and keep track of it!