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September 2012 | Volume 70 | Number 1
Feedback for Learning
Can comforting students who struggle in math demotivate them—and decrease the number of students pursuing math-related subjects?
Four recent studies say yes on both counts. The studies investigated whether holding a fixed theory of ability—that is, believing that ability is innate—leads
teachers not only to
comfort students for their perceived low ability following failure but also to use practices that promote students' long-term low achievement.
These are the report's major findings:
According to the authors, "It is not the case that instructors who believed math intelligence to be fixed failed to consider students' best interests. Instead, it
appears that their fixed view of intelligence led them to express their support and encouragement in unproductive ways that ultimately backfired" (p. 716). The authors
conclude that an education system that focuses on accepting weaknesses is not as positive as intended.
Authored by Aneeta Rattan, Catherine Good, and Carol S. Dweck, the report is titled, "It's OK—Not Everyone Can Be Good at Math: Instructors with an
Theory Comfort (and Demotivate) Students." The report appeared in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social
In a city in northeastern Brazil, schools are tracking the movements of 20,000 grade-school students through locator chips that have been embedded in the students'
uniforms. The aim is to see whether students are cutting classes; parents will be notified when a student has skipped class three times. By 2013, all of the city's 43,000
public school students, ages 4 to 14, will be tracked using the chip-embedded T-shirts.
Interested in getting in-depth feedback about your students' understanding in social studies? Check out the set of 55 formative assessments tied to social studies
topics developed by the Stanford History Education Group.
Called History Assessments of Thinking (HATs), these assessments use the Library of Congress's collection of documents, photos, paintings, radio broadcasts, and
film clips to measure students' historical understandings and critical-thinking skills.
For instance, one assessment shows a 1932 painting by J. L. G. Ferris titled The First Thanksgiving 1621 and asks students to discuss whether this painting
would be useful to historians who want to understand the relationship between the Puritan settlers and the Wampanoag Indians. Other tasks require students to use evidence from
artifacts to mount a historical argument or to corroborate a historical document.
Interactive scoring rubrics link to sample student responses, showing what performance at each level looks like. Many assessments include a "Going Deeper"
video that extends teachers' understanding of that task and the historical skills it measures. To see a sample rubric for the First Thanksgiving assessment, visit http://beyondthebubble.stanford.edu/assessments/first-thanksgiving/rubric. To see the
explanatory video, go to http://beyondthebubble.stanford.edu/assessments/first-thanksgiving/deeper.
94 The percentage of Canadian 4th–8th grade teachers who incorporate peer feedback into their writing instruction.
82 The percentage of Canadian 4th–8th grade teachers who provide regular verbal feedback on students' writing, informally or in
43 The percentage of Canadian 4th–8th grade teachers who use established scoring guides and rubrics to give feedback on
Source: Peterson, S., McClay, J., & Main, K. (2010). Teaching writing in Canadian middle-grades classrooms: A national
study. Middle Grades Research Journal, 5(2).
The Gamification of Learning and Instruction by Karl M. Kapp (John Wiley and Sons, 2012)
Gamification (defined as "using game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote
learning, and solve problems") is transforming learning, writes author Karl M. Kapp. Frequent, intense feedback is one of the elements that distinguish video games, board
games, and other kinds of games from traditional learning environments. Feedback in games not only tells players whether they have done the right or wrong thing, but also lets
learners know how they can improve.
"Think of the engaging elements of why people play games—it's not just for the points—it's for the sense of engagement, immediate
feedback, feeling of accomplishment, and success of striving against a challenge and overcoming it. … We learning professionals (academics, teachers, corporate trainers,
instructional designers) know gamification; we've done it. We've turned boring content into engaging classroom activities. … Now is not the time to walk
away from the concept of gamification; now is the time to take it back to add richer meaning and depth to the term." (p. xxii)
"When we give students feedback, eight things can happen—and six of them are bad!"
—Dylan Wiliam, p. 30
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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