Saturday, February 21, 2015
Saturday Sayings: Quality
My school's staff had an inservice this last week. We spent the morning talking about formative assessment and specifically how important quality teacher feedback is to moving students forward. What are we saying to our students, and are we saying it in a way that acknowledges and builds upon what they've done well while at the same time nudges them forward?
Here's where the butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Due to where the conversation was going, I so wanted to raise my hand and pose a burning question. Alas I refrained. I was afraid of upsetting the apple cart, although I hope I could have pulled off my question diplomatically. I even scribbled down my thoughts so I could possibly even sound smart just in case I got up the nerve. Here's what I would have said.
"How are we asking kids to spend the majority of their time? The feedback I can give in a one-on-one situation or during an authentic reading or writing activity is much different than the kind of feedback I can give on a worksheet. If I have lots of questions about the quality of my feedback, the answer might partially be found in how my kids are spending their time."
I stress the word "majority." Even I will every so often give my kids 8 math problems to practice independently. I'll break out the stickers and write comments like "Wow!" but we do not camp there. That's about as much of a worksheet as my kids will ever see. The rest of the feedback they receive has a much different flavor to it.
It's difficult to magically turn worksheet comments, scores, or stickers into quality feedback. There's only so much that the teacher with a boatload of papers to correct can say or has time to say on work like that. Kids who spend the majority of time practicing skills via worksheets are missing out not only on quality practice but quality feedback. And if they're missing out on feedback, they're missing out on accelerated forward movement in their learning. Sometimes the trick to turning the numerous "Wows" into something more meaningful is as simple as providing our students with a different way of practicing proficiency. Quality time forges the way for more quality feedback.