Involving Students in Offering Feedback
A Strategy by Michael Harrison
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 start by completing a form that includes their understanding of what an assignment asked for, what they did well, what they could improve, and what steps they can take to remedy any weaknesses. The first step is to identify 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.
The second step on the form asks students to state in writing what they have done well. In the early part of the year, students have a hard time recognizing what is good about their work. I provide students with a rubric tailored to each assignment to help them mitigate their hesitation to say they have done something well. They can use the language in the rubric for their responses if they desire. Later in the year, students tend to be more confident about spotting their own good work and rely less on the language of the rubric.
The next step is for students to point out the weaknesses in their work. Again, at first students may need some prompting, but with time they can make an honest assessment of what could have been done better, even if it involves a minor issue like poor word choice or the proper use of conventions.
The final step on the form asks students to identify ways to remedy what needs to be improved. Stating their plan to improve the assignment seems to be the easiest part for students. Students are then given time to revise the assignment and address any weaknesses in their work.
After students have had time to self-reflect, they exchange their work with a partner and then complete the same form for their partner’s work. This effectively provides immediate feedback for both parties. Secondly, the other student’s feedback can help to reinforce understanding or clarify misunderstandings. I also build in an opportunity for students to talk about the feedback on assignment which can help deepen understanding of the learning goal and allow students to internalize their learning. When students have a chance to talk through an assignment, they have to use their knowledge to assess each other’s work and offer suggestions for improvement.
I circulate throughout the classroom and assist when needed if there is disagreement about any portion of the reflection. For example, if one student identifies a weakness in another students work, that student may not recognize it as a weakness. I then offer my take on the matter and help them come to a consensus. This helps me target students who need further explanation or clarification. It also gives me a general sense of how many students grasp a particular concept or do not understand, leading to immediate re-teaching. This has been a valuable process in my classroom as it provides students with timely feedback, and it gives me feedback on their understanding.