Feedback: how are we really doing?

Teacher evaluations can be a stressful topic in schools. Personally, I look forward to walk-throughs from my administrator. It is a time for an outsider to come in and give me a different perspective on my classroom. I anxiously look forward to my feedback as it provides insight on areas I can celebrate and areas I can grow in.  I only wish I got to have continuous feedback throughout the year so I could see and track my progress over time. As an educator, that is exactly what we should be doing with students; proving ample opportunities to receive feedback and to show growth.

So, as educators in all positions, how are we really doing on feedback? Studies have shown that the way a teacher approaches feedback will greatly effect each student’s learning. While attending a Solution Tree RTI at Work conference in New Orleans, Nicole Dimich Vagle spoke on feedback and the huge impact it has on student achievement.

Grading assessments, whether formative or summative, should give the teacher AND student a deeper understanding of the misconceptions that have occurred. This means that assessments should be designed with a specific purpose and end goal in mind. Once the assessment has been designed and the students have taken it, the teacher must then decide how to provide feedback and ways for students to learn from their mistakes.

A study done for Classroom Assessment and Grading that Works by Mazarno shows us these staggering statistics:


Teacher Action: Only tell students number of correct and incorrect.

Impact on Student Achievement: Negative, student achievement decreases.


Teacher Action: Clarify scoring criteria.

Impact on Student Achievement: Increase student achievement by 16%.


Teacher Action: Provide explanations about why responses are correct or incorrect.

Impact on Student Achievement: Increases student achievement by 20%


Teacher Action: Ask students to continue responding to an assessment until they correctly answer the items.

Impact on Student Achievement: Increases student achievement by 20%


Teacher Action: Graph student achievement.

Impact on Student Achievement: Increases student achievement by 26%


Those numbers were shocking to me. I thought about all the times I only gave my students the number of questions they got right and wrong. For summative assessments I have always allowed test corrections, but it has only been in the last year that I have allowed for corrections on other assignments. After I got over the horrible feeling that I had failed all of my students, I started trying to answer the question “how can I do better?”

When I returned from the conference I knew that the way I provided feedback had to change. Not only did it have to change, but I could not wait until the next year to implement new practices; I had to start now. The first thing I have begun with is developing three student learning targets that I provide at the beginning of each unit. Students are asked each week to rate their understanding on those three targets. This is not the same as graphing student achievement, but it is a start.

After I created these learning targets I created three short formative assessments; no more than five questions on them for each unit. These assessments line up with the student learning targets and help provide not only myself, but also feedback to the students on their understanding of each target. These assessments are not put in the grade book; they are purely used for feedback and growth.

Eventually I would like to create rubrics for each of my formative assessments that students can self-grade and look for their own errors. My next goal will be to have students track their growth over the year towards overarching targets for the entire subject. All of this is a process that will take time. One way to tackle this workload is functioning in a PLC school. Working in a Professional Learning Community will divide up the work and actually make providing individual feedback more manageable. Individualizing feedback takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it and is invaluable to student growth.

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