In an effort to communicate more clearly, educators all over are exploring ways to provide feedback and report achievement. The move to being standards-based is intended to create a culture focused on learning, where students receive more specific information about what they understand and what they need to learn more about. We report to communicate achievement and work habits at school. This is the kind of information that has great potential to help students make deeper connections to what they are learning and increase the rigor of their school experience.
Feedback is one of the most powerful instructional intervention tools a teacher has at his/her disposal. Its primary purpose is to reduce the discrepancy between where a learner is relative to where the learner is supposed to be (Chappuis, 2014). But feedback isn’t always employed in effective ways. Kluger and De Nisi (1996) found that feedback, as it is traditionally offered, has less than a 50% chance of creating a productive response on behalf of the learners. Hattie and Timperley (2007) added that if feedback is to be supportive of learning, there is so much more to be considered than simply addressing the most popular criteria of being timely and specific.
Maya is in second grade. On Wednesday of each week, students in her classroom receive an object. With this object, they are asked to create something and write about it using details. They bring the “imagination creation” and description back to school on Friday to share it with their peers. Maya brings her writing home on Monday and most often the feedback provided is “great job.” After doing these imagination creations for about two months, I looked more closely and was struck by a few things in Maya’s writing. First, her spacing was getting progressively worse. She was putting spaces in the middle of words, connecting words that shouldn’t be connected, and tossing capital letters in the middle of words. As a former English teacher and her mother, I decided to ask her about it. The conversation went something like this:
For the past several years, North Carolina’s legislature has been working to reimagine almost everything about education in our state. Their most recent move: Releasing A-F letter grades for every school in every county in our state. “North Carolina public school parents now have an easy-to-understand letter grade to help them evaluate school performance,” argued Bill Cobey, the Chairman of the State Board of Education.
Recently, while working at an event with a team, my colleague Tim Brown showed hundreds of educators a cartoon in which a little boy had created a snowman and surrounded it with snow sharks. Tim asked the audience to consider the snow sharks we’ve built in education – those times, processes, and places in which our own handiwork attacks or places barriers before our primary goals. I walked away considering the snow sharks we’ve created specifically in our assessment systems. I think we have a few: