Monthly Archives: November 2013

Responding to student feedback, an experiment

I’ve been experimenting with feedback a bit lately, though that’s material for another post. Today I want to talk specifically about one class. They are all in the third grade of middle school and mostly an intermediate level. We study genre writing together twice a week. I enjoy teaching and learning with them. Today’s small change was in how I responded to their feedback.

Last week at the end of a unit (formal letter writing), I asked them for feedback in the form of three sentences: “I liked ______.” “I didn’t like _____.” and “Please change _____.” I borrowed this feedback format from Mr. Michael Griffin’s blog post, “Orange is the new please consider stopping.”

Unsurprisingly, their feedback was quite a mixed bag. Some of it was specific; the rest very general. Some of them liked using the book, others hated it. Some of them enjoyed free-writing at the beginning of each class. For others, it was the worst part of each class. Some of them submitted anonymous feedback to complain about difficulties with other students. Others used it to express their personal challenges with English (and kindly signed their feedback slips). Some added helpful suggestions (“more group work, please!”) as well.

I noticed a lot of the feedback was similar to the previous months’ and I realized that I needed to address this more directly. Previously, I read the feedback and made changes to the things I could and tried to explain the things I couldn’t change – but I didn’t link it directly to their feedback.

This time I compiled all the feedback in a chart for everyone to see and today I went through it with the class, point by point. They listened attentively, adding additional thoughts that came up, and were interested in what I planned to do about the discrepancies. Some things I told them we couldn’t change (like the books). Some things I needed to ask how many people agreed about (like the group work). Some things I needed to explain why I was doing them in spite of similar feedback last unit (like the free writing).

The end result was a happy class who appreciated that I am listening to them, and showed me with their smiles, thanks, and hard work. The next round of feedback will hopefully reveal whether they felt answered this time.

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