Feedback Opportunities


Last week I took part in a Twitter conversation about student feedback. The discussion evolved into why direct feedback is often more efficient than vague “good job” teacher responses. Most of us agreed that feedback and exploration is often the cornerstone in having students recognize misconceptions and build mathematical understanding. That feedback is so essential and is a vital ingredient in the learning process.  The conversation had me thinking of the different feedback opportunities that exist in and out of the classroom.

Everyone receives feedback. In a school setting that feedback can come in the form of a supervisor, team, students and so many others.  Beyond this, I receive feedback when I forget to shut my car door or leave the lights on. A loud beep blasts out of the speaker and I need to go back and fix the problem. When creating a document and I forget to save before exiting I receive a “do you want to save” message. Absolutely I want to save, and the feedback (or reminder) gives me an opportunity to do so. I could give other examples but the point is that feedback comes in forms that might not be associated with classroom use.

I feel as though giving students feedback is intentionally setting the stage for student improvement. What happens if the student doesn’t utilize that feedback?  What good is the feedback if it sits on the paper? I feel like this happens more often than I would like to admit.

Giving students multiple opportunities to utilize feedback can lead to action.  That action may lead students to make changes in how they approach problems and concepts.  Although the teacher is one of the main feedback systems, it shouldn’t and isn’t the only option. While thinking of feedback, I started to brainstorm some possible feedback systems that can aid in the learning process.  I can picture these systems being used to give feedback after some type of formative assessment or instruction.

Teacher – The teacher is one of the best feedback tools in the classroom. Fielding student questions, clarifying  and anticipating next steps all play a role in how a teacher responds with feedback. Teachers all around the world offer feedback, so much that it becomes part of their daily lives.  The feedback from teachers can be observed in written or verbal form.

Students – Peer editing and group work can be powerful. Of course, modeling and front loading needs to occur before this becomes an amazing tool. When students discuss answers with each other it opens up a door for feedback. Students can explain their reasoning and be critical friends in the process. Group work provides opportunities for students to become better at explaining their mathematical thinking and processes. Hearing how other students explain their thinking can lead students to an explanation that might not have been perceived before.

Math Classroom Conversations – Math class conversations can be beneficial to all involved.  This also takes modeling before becoming a positive aspect of the classroom experience.  Asking open-ended math questions and having students respond can lead students to ask additional questions.  Feedback can be provided during this entire process while students construct understandings. Classroom conversations often involve some type of whole group question, group response and feedback.

Games – Math games can provide students with a low-risk opportunity to practice skills and show their understanding. I find that when students use math games they engage socially, think strategically and practice skills in the process. Board, card, dice and app games all provide feedback in different ways. Feedback is given in how the other students react to each other, how the answer is revealed and in the scoring element. Math games open up a door of possibilities and adds some competitiveness. Apps have helped revolutionize this idea. Kahoot and Socrative have gaming elements that provide students with additional feedback that can be used to inform instructional decisions.

Adaptive Software – No, this shouldn’t be the only method of feedback. Keeping that in mind, the feedback given through adaptive software can be be helpful to a point. Regardless of the adapted score or level, this type of feedback might not be tailored to the individual student.  Although adaptive apps/software is a field that’s improving (as tech startups hire education professionals), this type of feedback isn’t as accurate as some of the other methods above.

How do you give feedback opportunities in the classroom?



Feedback … from students?

When are students asked for feedback? This often happens at the college level, but not so much during the K-12 experience.  I believe students, at all grade levels, need an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas in the classroom.

I would assume that most professionals in the education field would agree that when students feel safe in school they are more likely to learn and achieve at high levels.  Many teachers perceive the beginning of the school year as the starting point in building a collaborative environment for learning. Teachers will use a variety of methods to get to know their class.  Some teachers will utilize a puzzle strategy while others use collaborative games. Sometimes it’s a challenge to continually remind students that the classroom is a community (especially around breaks and near the end of the year!).  In my experience, I’ve found that plus/delta charts are a great tool to remind students that their input is valued. These types of charts are also utilized outside of the education realm, as seen here. I’ve found that at the very minimum, plus/delta charts are a valuable community building tool.  My practical steps to incorporate plus/delta charts in the classroom are outlined below.

1.)  Start out by drawing a chart with a + and a triangle near the top of  the writing surface

2.)  Ask the students for positive happenings in the classroom

The + represents the positive aspects of the class that the students enjoy.  The + could pertain to certain activities or projects that were assigned.  It could also represent class goals that have been achieved.  All of my examples below include “we” meaning the class.

Examples (more geared towards elementary):

+ The class was respectful during the field trip

+ We worked well in groups today

+ We enjoyed the music being played during independent work

+ We brought all of our supplies to class for the past month

3.)  Move on to the delta or negative aspects

The triangle represents items that the class needs help with.  For example, students might feel that talking when the teacher is talking is disruptive. Or students might comment that the class needs to become better at turning in assignments on time. The delta starts to become more of a problem solving piece if this process is used on a regular basis.

Examples (again, geared towards elementary):

– We were a little loud during line-up today

– We forgot to complete the homework

– We need to put more effort into our work

– We didn’t listen to the teacher’s directions before starting the assignment

4.)  Students can set goals based on the plus/delta chart.  

This can be accomplished by utilizing goal setting strategies.

If you read this far into this blog post then you probably want to see practical examples of plus/delta charts.  Here you go:

If you’re looking for a possible template to use, click here.

5.) (Optional)  Students reflect on what was discussed in class through a self-reflection journal activity.  The journal activity could actually be integrated into a language arts connection.

6.)  Hang up the plus/delta chart in the classroom as a reminder tool and refer to it as needed

After a debriefing session, I generally cover the old chart with a new chart.  Students are able to view what progress was made over time by comparing the two charts.  A chart is completed every month in some cases, but the time elapsed between charts really depends on the teacher’s preference.

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