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April 1, 2022

Tell Us About / The Power of Feedback

Tell us about a time that giving or receiving feedback really shifted your thinking.
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Getting Rid of the Grade

When I started teaching English, I followed the traditional route of marking essays with corrections, suggestions, and scores. It would take hours. When I handed the papers to my students, they would look at the grade, and then smile, sigh, or grimace. The paper would be quickly stuffed into their backpack. I rarely saw students read what I had written. So I made a major shift to my instruction. I decided to give feedback only, with no grade. I also developed a cover sheet for student writing so students could let me know what they thought they did well and where they struggled. I met with each student and we set a revision writing goal. I would love to say that everything went smoothly and my class ran like clockwork, but the truth is that there were many bumps in the road. However, the outcome was that my students participated in their own learning, and I no longer spent hours on end grading papers on my own time.
Roberta Blasjo, resource teacher, Leesburg High School, Leesburg, Florida

Getting Beyond the Emotional Response

Sometimes we solicit feedback and sometimes it's thrust upon us. Recently I asked our faculty to provide me, their principal, with feedback. I asked what should I stop, start, and continue doing, plus a couple of other questions. The response was largely affirming for me, as well as giving me a few tips on how to refine my approach. I felt good about this process, as I was ready to receive the feedback, and agreed with the constructive comments. Then, in the last week or so I received some feedback I did not ask for about how my behavior in online meetings was affecting some team members. Feedback is aways a gift, but sometimes it's not easy to receive. Knowing myself, I could see the validity of the feedback, yet it rocked me. I had not been ready for it. In these cases it's hard to distance oneself emotionally from the feedback and look at it cognitively, moving away from the personal realm. There is one other real positive I can take from all of this: those involved felt safe enough to share that feedback with me, the principal. That thought gives me a boost as I process the feedback itself.
Liz Durkin, middle school principal, Stamford American International School, Singapore

Feedback Salad, Anyone?

We need to rethink the "feedback sandwich," a method in which we offer praise, then criticism, then praise. It's predictable, and can therefore feel formulaic and disingenuous at times. Tailoring feedback by using our knowledge of the recipient can be a more sincere approach. Asking the recipient for their initial thoughts and engaging in reflective conversation helps build trusting relationships so that feedback can be welcomed on a regular basis.
Julie Webb, literacy coach, LitCentric, Napa, California

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