Educator Reflection Tips

Educator Reflection Tip #64: Are you giving “focused feedback” to students?

How focused is your feedback?

Have you been wondering how to assess learning loss, or what I call impermanent learning? If so, having a focused feedback loop is essential. When you think about all of the skills/concepts that are taught towards the end of the year…new skills, review of all skills, vertical teaming skills to prepare students for the transition to the new grade, we can’t afford to spend the summer having fun. It is vitally important for us to sit down and carefully plan out all aspects of instruction. This planning includes our routine for giving feedback.

Let’s reflect on your current practice for providing feedback.

How do you currently give feedback to students?

Is it planned or given informally in real-time?

How effective is it? What data could you provide to support your answer?

Will you be able to use your current method regardless of whether you are teaching students virtually or in-person?

Many students will have had numerous bouts of instability and trauma on a daily basis. It will be important for teachers to provide stable routines. As educators it is imperative that we think through the routines that we will implement next year. Aim to implement processes that can be used interchangeably if school setting’s change. This will help our students social and emotional well-being, which will in turn help them to concentrate on their schoolwork.

What is focused feedback?

Focused feedback is academically descriptive information. It should lets them know how close they are to reaching an academic goal. The purpose should be to provide next steps or corrective actions for students to follow.

Below are a 3 tips to keep in mind when planning feedback conversations:

#1: Is the feedback academically-based?

The first is to ask yourself is this feedback directly related to the academic content. Is it based on an analysis that you have conducted of the students classwork, homework, assessments, or any other data that you have collected on this student? It is important that what you discuss with students is directly correlated with the work they have been completing.

#2: Timing of feedback is critical

Ideally, educators should aim to give feedback to students in real-time. This means you should attempt to provide feedback as you are teaching, observing, and identify students misconceptions. This way you can stop and find out what the student is thinking by asking them to share the process they used. The best way to identify a misconception is by having students verbalize how they processed what was taught. Using an immediate question and answer technique can helps you figure out where the misconception is. This creates the opportunity to work to reverse and reroute students which puts them on track towards mastering a standard.

#3: What do you know about your students?

Use the information you know about each student to tailor your approach to match what students need. Think about this student. Harold is in your classroom. He does not react well when you critique him in front of his peers. What approach will you use with this student? One suggestion would be to use probing questions which help the student reflect on their work and identify their own mistakes/misconceptions. By now I’m sure you have realized that establishing strong relationships with students is a MUST!! Ideally, you want to cultivate an environment where students will raise their hand and tell you they don’t understand.

Taking students through a continuous feedback loop models the questions they should be asking themselves and ultimately will help them begin to learn how to assess their own level of understanding.

Don’t you want that for your students. I know I do!!

What is your routine for giving “focused feedback” to students?

Other questions to consider:

  1. Is your feedback specific and academically-focused?
  2. How timely is your feedback?
  3. Will you give feedback to students privately or in a whole-group setting? Will you write it down or give it orally?
  4. How will you tailor your feedback to the individual student? Based on what you know about the student, have you considered his/her needs and thought about what the student’s reactions will be?
  5. How will you question the student? Will you begin by asking the student questions? Will you question the student near the end of your feedback conversation?

These questions or considerations could help you clear up misconceptions. As always, you can read more about this topic using the links below. You can learn more tips for improving your instructional practices by visiting my other Reflection Tips. If you don’t currently have a feedback framework, in July 2020, I developed the E.M.P.O.W.E.R. Feedback framework. This feedback framework guides teachers through the process of empowering students to take ownership for their learning. If you are interested, it is available on all platforms and can be found in Chapter 6 here.

Follow-up Resources:

20 Ways To Provide Effective Feedback For Learning
How to Provide Effective Feedback to Students


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