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This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in
How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students, an ASCD book written by Susan M. Brookhart and published in September 2008.
You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book, or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book, but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.
Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students.
Chapter 1: Feedback: An Overview
- What is the role of feedback in classroom formative assessment? Reflecting on your own feedback practices, what is the role that feedback currently plays in your own classroom? As a result of this reflection, can you select one or two aspects of feedback to experiment with as you read this book?
- Have you ever thought about feedback in terms of choices you make about strategies to provide it and the content of the message? How will this breakdown of ideas contribute to how you approach giving your own feedback?
- Discuss the relationship between feedback and grading in your own classroom. If you currently grade all student work, are you able to consider adding some "practice" work for learning and feedback only? How might you structure that?
- Do you give feedback as well as grades on final assignments (tests, big projects)? If so, discuss whether and how your students have opportunities to use that feedback to improve future work.
Chapter 2: Types of Feedback and Their Purposes
- Discuss the timing of feedback in your class(es). How often, and how promptly, do you return written assignments with feedback? If you are not as prompt in this regard as you would like to be, which one of the following might work as a time management strategy for you?
- Write less feedback on each piece, but prioritize and focus feedback so that what you do write is more effective.
- Make a brief but concerted effort to "catch up," to deal with the problem of having gotten behind, and then resume your normal speed for reviewing work and giving feedback—but now with more recent work.
- Reflect on the amount of feedback you give. Some teachers write long, chatty notes to students because they start writing before they think through what they want to say. Others write brief comments that appear cryptic to students. Where are you on this continuum?
- Give some examples in your classroom where oral, written, and demonstration feedback, respectively, are appropriate. Describe the feedback you gave and what effect it had on student learning.
- How do you decide whether to give feedback to individuals, to a small group, or to the whole class?
- What is the difference between feedback about the task and feedback about process? Give some examples of each kind and discuss how/when you would (or did) use them.
- A common misconception is that percent-correct marking, by itself, is "criterion-referenced" feedback for students. Discuss why this is not the case, and describe true criterion-referenced feedback.
- Can you think of a time when feedback that you intended to be descriptive was taken by the student to be an "evaluation"? What could you have done differently, or in addition, to help this student see the feedback as an opportunity to improve instead of as a judgment?
- Discuss some ways you are "positive" without being insincere or untruthful when you give feedback to students.
- How do students respond to feedback in your class(es), both in their learning and in their motivation? What conclusions can you draw about your classroom environment and the effectiveness of your feedback?
Chapter 3: How to Give Effective Written Feedback
- How do you know if your written feedback is clear to students? How could you check students' understanding of your feedback?
- Many teachers who work on formative assessment find that they thought they had given specific feedback, but that it turned out not to be specific enough for their students to use. Select one or more student papers on which you have written feedback and think how you might have written something more specific. Assignments whose feedback students did not seem to apply to their next work are good candidate papers for this exercise.
- Characterize the tone or "voice" in which you write feedback. Do you think you are too "nasty" or too "nice"? How does your feedback communicate that it is the student who is in charge of making decisions about his or her work?
- Have you ever used annotated rubrics to give feedback to students? Describe what you did, and why. Discuss how else you used the rubrics (for example, at the time of the assignment, to help students understand the target, or during work, for self assessment).
- Have you ever used an assignment cover sheet or feedback on a returned test to give both formative and summative feedback at the same time? Describe how you do that, and describe the students' responses.
Chapter 4: How to Give Effective Oral Feedback
- How much "quick-and-quiet" feedback do you give to individual students as you walk around your classroom? Describe a circumstance in which that has worked well for you, and speculate on the reason why. Describe a circumstance when such feedback did not have the results you hoped for, and speculate on the reason for that.
- Do you use in-class conferencing? Describe a circumstance in which that has worked well for you, and speculate on the reason why. Describe a circumstance when in-class conferencing did not have the results you hoped for, and speculate on the reason for that.
- Do you use out-of-class student conferencing? Describe how you do that, and with what results.
- How do you decide when to reteach a lesson objective or other learning target? How do you let students know why you are reteaching? How do you decide whether to reteach a whole lesson or just incorporate some review material in future lessons as you go on?
- Have you ever used video- or audiotape to help students give themselves feedback at the same time as you do? Describe what you did and why, and evaluate the effectiveness of this method as a vehicle for feedback with your particular students and learning targets.
Chapter 5: How to Help Students Use Feedback
- Why is teacher modeling of the use of feedback a powerful strategy? Think of as many reasons as you can, from this book but also from your own experience and from other reading.
- If you have used student self-assessment with rubrics in your class, how many of the following types of students have you encountered? What did you do in each case?
- A student who easily and accurately assessed his or her work.
- A student who seemed to lack confidence in his or her "right" to assess his work (isn't that the teacher's job?).
- A student whose assessment of his or her work was less favorable than you (the teacher) thought it should be.
- A student whose assessment of his or her work was more favorable than you (the teacher) thought it should be.
- Why is it helpful to have students develop a sense of ownership of rubrics, either by "translating" yours into kid-friendly terms or by creating their own? Describe situations you think would be appropriate for each, and tell why. If you have experimented with either of these methods, describe what you did and what the results were. Is there anything you would do differently next time?
- Describe several different ways for students to get more information than a grade out of a test. Which of these ways might be appropriate for the class(es) you teach?
- What knowledge and skills that you teach are appropriate for peer assessment? What knowledge and skills that you teach are not appropriate for peer assessment? How do you know the difference?
- Previous to reading this book, had you considered your assignments to be "embodiments of the learning targets" for students? If not, describe what difference this insight will make in your teaching. If so, describe what difference this insight has made in your teaching.
- How do you help students see the connection between their use of your feedback and the progress they make? How do you help students see the connection between their specific efforts and their learning? Why are these things important?
Chapter 6: Content-Specific Suggestions for Feedback
- If a content area you teach matches one of the examples from the chapter (elementary reading, elementary or secondary writing, math problem solving, social studies or science textbook comprehension, or content-area project-type assignments), analyze the example from the perspective of your particular students and learning goals.
- If your teaching area does not match one of the examples from the chapter, construct your own example. Use the feedback principles from Chapters 1, 2, and 3 and apply them to the kind of student work for which you give feedback.
Chapter 7: Adjusting Feedback for Different Types of Learners
- Explain why successful students need feedback.
- Explain why self-referenced feedback can help struggling students. Give an example from your own class, if possible.
- Explain how to adapt feedback for English language learners. Give an example from your own class, if possible.
- Why is it so difficult to give reluctant students (students who expect to, and often do, fail) effective feedback? Explain one insight from this book that you hope to use when you give feedback to a reluctant student. Envision the particular student and his or her work, if you can.
Extending Your Learning
If you have found this book to be helpful and wish to continue to develop your own feedback skills, you may want to work with a colleague or study group to give feedback on one another's feedback, as it were. Colleagues or study groups can consider feedback case studies that teachers bring to the group for discussion.
To analyze feedback, the following should be presented for each case:
- Statement of the learning objective
- Description of the assignment
- Example of a successful student's work, with teacher feedback (one or more)
- Example of an unsuccessful student's work, with teacher feedback (one or more)
- Teacher self-assessment of his or her feedback decisions (using the strategies and content decisions in Figures 1.1 and 1.2)
- Evidence of student's use of the feedback, if available
The colleague or group, after hearing the teacher's presentation and reviewing the case materials, should answer these questions:
- What feedback decisions seem particularly effective, and why?
- What, if any, feedback information would you eliminate, and why?
- What, if any, feedback information would you add, and why?
How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students was written by Susan M. Brookhart. This 128-page, 7 7/8" x 9 7/8" book (Stock #108019; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-0736-6) is available from ASCD for $15.95 (ASCD member) or $19.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2008 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.