Feedback and Reflection Opportunities

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Over the past few years I’ve emphasized the use of student feedback, reflection and goal setting in my classroom.  Trying to find an adequate balance for this has been a challenge.  This school year I’m looking at different mediums in which students can reflect on their math progress.  Reflecting on individual progress and determining where students are at in the progression can lead to powerful outcomes.  This year I’m looking at different ways to encourage students to make more meaningful reflections that lead to actionable goals.

Math journals

Each student has a math journal.  These journals take the form of a 70 count spiral notebooks. The journals are primarily used to reflect on assessment performance.  My class has eight unit assessments per grade level and there’s a reflection sheet designated for each one.  I’ve written about the different sheets and journals: (1)(2)(3).  Students then complete the sheet and bring their test along with their reflection to the teacher to review.  At that point the teacher and students work together to develop a math goal for the next unit.


Students work together often in my class.  I use a randomizer and group students so they tend to have different partners daily.  After they complete a task I give the students a couple minutes to discuss with their partner the effort level and challenge of a particular assignment.  I tend to use a timer and encourage students to be honest in the process.  Hearing how other students feel about the effort and challenge level can help students be more aware of the struggle that is part of the process.  Certainly not all, but I’ve seen some students thrive with this type of reflection.


Before students complete a project teachers give a sheet indicating the criteria for success. This looks like a checklist with statement indicating what’s needed to meet the expectation of a particular assignments.  As students complete each component they reflect on whether they’ve met the criteria and place a check.  Students will attach the criteria for success sheet to their assignment

Digital Platform

Along with the criteria for success, students may submit a project to a digital platform like SeeSaw or Canvas. Other students in the class are randomly selected to give feedback on other projects.  Students follow a prompt that asks whether a student has met the criteria for success or not.  They then re-check the work and ask a question or provide a positive comment about the work.  After the comments are submitted, the original poster reviews the comment, reflects and responds to the question or comment.


Each one of these mediums has pros and cons.  I’m finding that the classroom environment plays a major role in how comfortable students are in sharing their thoughts with the class.  Some students are much more willing to independently reflect and speak with the teachers than others.  I find that students take more of an ownership role when they analyze their own performance in context and make steps to improve.  Bypassing the “I’m good at math” or “I’m bad at math” type of thinking can be a challenge, but providing ample opportunities to reflect can move students away from generalizing and be more specific about their analysis.

The next step in my process is to take these reflection opportunities and transition it to meaningful individual goal setting.

Exit Cards and Formative Assessments

Image by:  Nattavut

This particular post stems from the above tweet.

Most educators understand that formative assessments can be a valuable tool in teaching and learning.  I’ve found that formative assessments play a pivotal role in my instruction as an educator.  Specifically, I’ve found that exit cards can be a powerful tool in analyzing student learning.  If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of using exit cards as a formative assessment tool, click here.  Below, I’ll give you a brief overview on why and how I use exit cards in the classroom setting.


It’s not required, but I feel as though exit cards  give me an opportunity to quickly assess students’ understanding of the objectives taught for a particular lesson.


In my experience exit cards work well near the end of a lesson.   During that time, the students fill out a small half sheet of paper that includes 1-3 questions related to the objectives taught during a specific lesson.

The questions may be multiple choice, but they generally include some type of written response that demonstrates an understanding of the objectives.

I don’t grade the exit cards (A or B …) instead I put a check on exit cards that show understanding and a subtraction sign that reminds the student and teacher that extra support may be needed.  The exit cards are placed in each student’s portfolio and can be utilized during parent/teacher conferences.  Periodically, I may conference with a student to review their exit cards and set goals based on the conversation.

Students are also given an opportunity to review the exit card slips before an assessment and may even journal about their academic growth in my class.

How often?

I may give exit cards once or twice per week or more frequently as needed.

Next steps?

The exit cards can be utilized to engage students in self-reflection activities (journaling or individual student conferences).  The exit cards can also be reviewed in class to give examples of correct answers.  I’m also planning on using exit cards beyond math and incorporate them into other content areas.

Here is one resource that may be beneficial in communicating what makes a “good” exit card with question and response examples.  I was also thinking that exit cards could be created and shared with a team of teachers and discussed during grade level meetings.

Student Growth Mindset

Image by:  S. Miles

Students that have an intrinsic drive to learn often retain information and are able to apply their learning in practical situations.  When students develop a growth mindset, they become much more goal oriented, which is a valuable skill to learn at a young age.  When students take responsibility for their own learning and understand the pivotal role that they play, a growth mind set begins to set in.  How do we as educators promote a growth mindset?  I have provided a list of activities that can be used to inspire students to become more responsible for their own learning in order to nurture a growth mindset.

1.)  Students communicate how they feel about their learning …

  • Students  become more aware of how metacognition plays a role in learning
  • Students review their latest assignment/test and reflect on their performance
  • Students complete a plus/delta chart on their weekly performance
  • Students analyze classroom achievement data and set goals based on the results
2.)  What happens after reflecting via journaling is vital …                    

  • Students monitor their progress to ensure that they are making steady progress towards their goal
3.)  Next …
  • Look at specific areas of concern for continuous improvement

What do you do to encourage student responsibility in the classroom?

Goal Setting for Students

We all set informal / formal goals, whether it’s to get through today’s workout on the elliptical or to have a smooth school year.  Our goals are usually something we strive for, an end to some type of means.  I’ve found that goals change as people change.  Goals can be placed into different categories, such as academic, fitness, health, financial …. the list goes on and on.  Have you ever made an academic goal?  For some, the answer is a hesitant … yes, I think so … to get through graduate school or something like that.  Effective educators need to be able to communicate the need for goal setting.  Why is goal setting for students important?

1.)  Gives students responsibility for their own learning

When students analyze their own data (assessments, homework, class participation, etc.) they often become more interested in the analysis because it’s relevant to them.  While reflecting on the data, students have an opportunity to set goals for themselves.  Teacher modeling is a vital component of this procedure, although when left to look  at their own data, students often make essential connections and can relatively pinpoint where they personally struggle.  While introducing the concept of student goal setting, teachers can model from their own lives when they’ve had to overcome a goal.  Britt Pumphrey and Jonathan Ferrell’s blog has a few practical visuals that can assist in communicating student goal setting.  Students seem to express interest when they see that their own teacher has had to overcome some type of obstacle and it relates to the topic being discussed.  After students set their goals, they develop a plan to achieve their goal. The teacher and parents are all aware of the goal and help support the student through this process.  By creating goals, students  start to take on more responsibility for their own learning.  In the example below, new goals are created every 2-3 months.

Math Example 

After a general math pre-assessment or assessment, students are given the opportunity to analyze their own data to see which concepts they understand and which concepts need strengthening.  A student might observe that most of the problems missed are related to multiplication and division concepts.  The student decides that the goal is to improve the efficiency and accuracy of solving multiplication / division problems.  The student sets a goal to improve in that specific area.  To achieve the goal, the student decides to practice multiplication / division problems twice a week for 20 minutes on the computer and to create and solve two practical word problems a week relating to the goal.

 2.)  Shows students that effective effort leads to achievement

When students analyze their own data, they can observe over time that appropriate effort (i.e. practicing computation math problems / creating world problems / other factors) leads to achievement.  The students will will also observe that practicing good habits (following through with their action plan)  positively affects the outcome of their goal.

3.)  Gives the student a skill that they will need as adults

Educators and administrators set goals and this should be modeled for students.  The students that we educate today need to understand the importance of setting goals, and more importantly, how to achieve them.  Not only is this academic related, but this is also as skill that will help prepare our students for life outside of the classroom.

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