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On Timely Feedback - Our 3.25.19 Update

On timely feedback…

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruits are sweet.”

  • Aristotle.

One of the issues we face at my school is the preponderance of students who want to move to Independent Study programs or online math programs. While in general I don’t mind tailoring a student’s program to their specific needs, I wonder sometimes if the urge to leave traditional classroom settings is in the interest of finding the path of least resistance. Students have commented on how “easy” these programs are and that they can accelerate their progress toward graduation. My reaction to this mindset is that they are forgoing the “bitterness” of the work demands in our classrooms to “get through” high school. Consequently, the “fruits” of their education may not be as sweet.

This movement away from a traditional classroom setting can also be due to a lack of motivation and engagement, begging the question, “How do we get students to do the hard work of learning?” Research suggests that clear, timely, and appropriate feedback heightens student engagement and leads to higher levels of motivation (Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Brookhart, 2017). In a classroom of 35+ students, providing timely feedback can be quite a challenge, so I enlist the help of my students to provide a portion of the feedback and help each other reflect on specific learning. We refer to this feedback process as “State the Affairs” which involves a half-page form with four tasks. Students work individually at first by clarifying the expectations of the assignment. At times, some students misunderstand the purpose of an assignment and its learning goal, so I ask them to write their understanding to clarify it for themselves. Next, they state what they have done well and what needs to be improved. Finally, they identify steps to remedy what needs to be improved. After they have had time to self-reflect, they exchange their work and write the “State of Affairs” of a partner’s work. This exchange can validate understanding or clarify misunderstandings. I circulate throughout the classroom and assist when needed if there is disagreement about any portion of the reflection. This helps me target students who need further explanation or clarification.

We use this process for a variety of assignments from homework to full process essays. It can be a “quick hitter” to check for understanding or it can be a way to help students move from “know” to “use” or even “expand” on McHenry’s Stages of Understanding. I challenge you to use this process to discover the effect it has on the completion rate of assignments and the overall engagement of your students.


Michael Harrison, Ph.D.
Founding Partner, The Scolaris Group

Paul McHenryfeedback