As part of our school’s Change 2 initiative, we have begun to work towards embedding effective feedback practices in our school. It is hoped that this will occur in every facet of school life – between students, student – teacher, between teachers, teacher – parent, parent – student, etc.
What does formal feedback look like in the classroom?
This year, I have made an effort to explore this question. I have used this year as an opportunity to refine my practice and trial various things with my grade 3/4 class. Here’s where I’m “at” with feedback…
I have used rubrics throughout all the years of my teaching. I find that rubrics are versatile and adaptable for ALL year levels. When I taught grade 1/2, I would introduce rubrics by creating a Behaviour Rubric. At the beginning of the year, we discussed what ‘excellent’ behaviour would look like. This would be recorded in the rubric and then compared to what ‘acceptable’ behaviour would look like and finally, ‘unsatisfactory’ behaviour. All this information would be collated and colour-coded using a traffic light system. From then on, we would refer to the rubric as a preventative and evaluative tool for our classroom behaviour. We also included mutually agreed consequences.
Here is an example of the Behaviour Rubric.
I always try to create rubrics WITH students PRIOR to a task. This gives students a sense of ownership for what they will be assessed against as well as giving them explicit assessment criteria.
Here is an example of the Persuasive Writing Rubric used with grade 3/4 students.
Often, I will encourage students to use the rubrics as a self-assessment tool. I have found this to be quite powerful for students and they seem to be their own harshest critic. In the comments section, I encourage students to use reflection sentence starters such as:
I am proud of…
Next time, I could…
I am still experimenting with Capacity Matrices. Over the last few years, I have tried several different templates. The idea of a Capacity Matrix is for students to self-assess their own ‘capacity’ of certain skills. This tool also explicitly defines assessment criteria for topics/units of work. I try to introduce the Capacity Matrix around the time of the Pre-Assessment. Together, these tools give me a clear picture of the students’ abilities and their perception. I can use this information to inform and drive my teaching.
We try to revisit the Capacity Matrix during the unit. Around the time of the Post Assessment, students will complete the Capacity Matrix once more and provide evidence of their learning.
Like I said earlier, I am still experimenting with Capacity Matrices and have found that they work best for Literacy and Numeracy units. This year, I haven’t used them as much as I would have liked. If anyone has suggestions or can share their experiences, please feel free to comment below.
Here are some examples of the Capacity Matrices I have created:
Capacity Matrix – Comprehension
Capacity Matrix – Time
Capacity Matrix – Holy Week
This year, I have increased the amount of time I conference with students on a one-to-one basis. Of course, I am interacting with students every minute of the day through whole class discussions and small group activities. In the past, I would rove and one-to-one conferences were unplanned and would happen incidentally. Feedback was often verbal and there would not be any record of what had been discussed. Also, I wasn’t tracking who I saw. What if I was conferencing with the same students each week? This is possible. We often are drawn to those who need us the most…
Now… I don’t think what I was doing was wrong. As teachers, we do the best we can. We have such limited time with the students in our care. But I am the type of person to question myself – “How can I do it better?” Therefore, this year, I have purposely planned to conference with individuals. This means that every week, I will conference with each student on at least one occasion. And most importantly, the main points of the discussion are recorded. I think this has worked well and I hope to expand on this next year to at least two occasions.
This year, I chose to make a start on my goal by scheduling Reading Conferences with each student each week. We begin every morning with 30 minutes of Independent Reading. During this time, students read their choice of books and record their thoughts and opinions in their Reading Journals. On their allocated day for conferencing, the students bring along their Reading Journal and a text. During the conference, we will set or revise a reading goal for the week/month/term. We will discuss the students’ progress so far as well as model/practise strategies that can be used to work towards the reading goal. I record the main points of the discussion as we speak and always make a suggestion of what students can do during the week to continue working on the goal.
I have found that this has helped me to get to know my students better. In fact, I am keen to schedule conferences for Maths. I just have to think how this would work on a practical basis. Again, any suggestions would be much appreciated!