Teaching Through Feedback

Our district had a DCD (district collaboration day) this morning about setting learning targets, but a question was mentioned in the presentation that I attended at the very beginning.  This question resonated more with me than anything else, mainly because it’s a core belief of mine, but also because I believe that it is a component to being an effective math teacher:

“What is effective feedback?”

I got back to my school and started jotting down some thoughts on what I believed the answers to this questions were:

  • Feedback can be a very powerful tool if done well…
  • Feedback should contain information that students can use to revise their thinking…
  • Students should be given opportunities to use the feedback…
  • Feedback should be part of a classroom environment in which students see constructive criticism as a good thing…
  • Feedback along with students’ internal input helps students define their own personal learning goals…
  • Feedback can show how we are doing in efforts to reach our goals/learning targets…

Feedback can be a powerful tool in the classroom. Here are tips for using it the right way. Click To Tweet

These came from my own personal experience in using feedback with my students through writing and conversations, but I knew that there was more to it.  I decided to take some time and scour the internet for articles and blogs on the idea of using feedback effectively to help students learn.  I read through several articles, 4 different blog sites, and notes from a Kay Burke conference I attended back in 2003.  I found that all of them boiled down to four main ideas when it comes to effective feedback:

Timing: feedback needs to be immediate.  The longer you wait, the less impact it will have!

Amount: One two two words does nothing to help a child understand what they did wrong or how to improve.  To me it’s the equivalent of giving a sticker or a smiley face.  Too much and the student will be overwhelmed.  The amount of feedback should be precise and get the student thinking and reasoning:

My feedback to a 3rd grade student
My feedback to a 3rd grade student

Modality: Feedback usually occurs in one of two formats: through writing, or through a one-on-one conference.

Audience: Teachers need to understand to whom they are giving the feedback.  You wouldn’t use writing with students that have difficulty reading, nor would you sit with a student for a conference if they cannot verbally explain their thinking and or reasoning.

When put together, these four major ideas form the basis of truly effective feedback AND have a strong impact on the learning of students young and old!  Below is some feedback that I received back in 1998 during my “Mathematics Teaching” class at Fredonia, NY:

What was your thinking?
What was your thinking?

Her question made me go back and re-read my explanation to see if I left anything out.  It also made me want to speak with her after class to SHOW her my reasoning using manipulatives!  This was something that became internally ingrained into my teaching over the years…


…so I began to use students’ feedback to help me grow as a teacher.  The following picture is a student’s reflection from a project….
I read through them all, and made adjustments to the rubric…


I have seen the value of effective feedback, so I continue to use it as a Math Coach with my school to help everyone grow as math teachers…

Number Talk feedback
Number Talk feedback

As my school’s math coach, I have been pushing the teachers to make the students write daily at some point during their math class.  My reasoning behind this “non-negotiable” is to get the teachers to understand that this can give them a window into their students’ thoughts, reasoning skills, and strategies.  What I have realized over the past few months is that the tough part is having them give feedback!

My goal is to help the teachers understand what effective feedback is, the benefits, and just how easy it is to employ!  My first step to achieve this goal is to read and respond to an article from ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) titled, “Seven Keys to Effective Feedback“.  I suggest you join us….

Please share with your teachers, and comment below to share your thoughts!!!

Interesting blog post on using feedback to teach math. #mathcoach #teaching Check it out: Click To Tweet

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