Feedback-infused instruction – a relfection on Content Methods

  1. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

Standard 4 calls teachers to use knowledge of their content, pedagogy, and their students to improve learning.  This standard (and sub-standards 4.1 – 4.4) reveals the complex web of interrelated considerations teachers much keep in mind – pedagogical approaches, instructional outcomes, lesson and unit structure, assessment methods.  I have learned that feedback is an important tool for improving student learning, precisely because it can meaningfully coordinate this complex web of teacher activities listed in Standard 4.

Feedback is often considered a component of assessment (it’s the stuff teachers write on student essays, they stuff students try and fail to read before they lose it).  Hattie and Timperley, in their systematic investigation of feedback’s power to impact student learning, have argued that “Feedback is among the most critical influences on student learning” (105).  They’ve also outlined several specific best-practices that will make feedback more effective; the author’s findings indicate that feedback plays a critical role in planning and instruction as well as assessment.

Based on Hattie and Timperley’s findings, I planned a 3-week poetry unit around a feedback strategy.  I wrote 1-paragraph timed write prompt, created a rubric for grading the timed-write, and planned instruction based on that rubric.  I had students write an analysis paragraph on Monday of our last week, based on the same prompt as the summative assessment.  I planned to give detailed, task-oriented feedback on this first round of paragraphs before the final timed-write at the end of the unit.

And then I came down with a monstrous cold.

The chief aim for my poetry unit was to test the degree to which my feedback would impact student performance on a summative writing task.  I didn’t get to test that.  The process of writing feedback did, however, highlight another important conclusion of Hattie and Timperley’s investigation.  I found that it’s much easier to write feedback that is sufficiently detailed and highly relevant to the assessment task when I have already been equally detailed and explicit in my instruction.  As Hattie and Timperley point out, “[Feedback] is but part of the teaching process and is that which happens second—after a student has responded to initial instruction.”  If my feedback is meant to evaluate their response to initial instruction, my feedback will be most useful (and easiest to write) if I use the same language as I’ve used during instruction.

As a classmate has pointed out, feedback allows teachers to embed instruction into the assessment process.  To that end, I’m eager to keep Hattie and Timperley’s findings in mind as I seek to plan units with a specific feedback strategy in mind.

A major aim of the educative process is to assist in identifying these gaps (“How am I going?” relative to “Where am I going?”) and to provide remediation in the form of alternative or other steps (“Where to next?”). (105)

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