Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chappuis, Chapter 3: Effective Feedback

In Chapter 2, Chappuis writes on how to help students get a clear picture of what they should be learning and how that learning should be demonstrated.  In Chapter 3, Chappuis offers five characteristics of effective feedback to keep students on the right path .

1. Effective feedback directs attention to the intended learning

There are two types of feedback for Chappuis: success and intervention.  These are straightforward.  Success feedback points out what a student has done well while intervention feedback tells them what needs to be corrected or improved.

There are common comments that do not accomplish the goal of effective feedback however.  Writing "incomplete" or "re-do" or really any grade does not encourage a student to succeed or give them a clear direction to go in.  As Chappuis (2009) states, "Providing feedback can be a labor-intensive proposition.  If we put all that time in we want to make sure that (1) we're doing it right, and (2) students will use it."  How many more students would have corrected an assignment if I had given them one-on-one feedback instead of writing "incomplete" at the top of their paper?  Even "see me," I would argue, has such a negative connotation, it is ineffective.  How many of your students actually do see you afterwards?

Often it is easy to praise students.  "You're so smart!"  However, Chappuis notes, this puts the feedback towards the learner rather than towards the work, and what does that make the student who receives the intervention feedback?  A study found that "look how hard you tried" is a much more effective comment because students see effort as something within their control, while "look how smart you are" is seen as a personal attribute and unchangeable (Blackwell, Trzensniewski, and Dweck, 2007, as cited in Chappuis, 2009).

Giving grades as part of feedback can be damaging as well.  Louann Reed taught at CSU that there are three terms used for assessment that shouldn't be interchangeable.  There's "assessment," the broad term; "feeback," which is written or verbal suggestions given to a student to help them improve their work or let them know their on the right track; then there are "grades," which contain a value judgement of the work.  The reason many students probably go to the last page of their essays for the grade and ignore the comments is because they see the feedback as unhelpful - why take the extra effort to make revisions when the grade's already been given.  Even if we say "you can make edits and turn this in for a better grade," how often does that actually happen?  Better to give the feedback, have them make changes, then assign a grade.

2. Feedback occurs during learning

Chappuis points out that we teachers often tell students "it's okay to make mistakes," because that's often how we learn.  By making a mistake, we know what not to do.  But sometimes our grading policies encourage the opposite viewpoint.  When quizzes and participation points are given leading up to the big test, how fair is it to grade them both.  It's double jeopardy.

Louann's continuum also should go in order.  Feedback should always come before grading.  Feedback should happen during learning.

3. Feedback addresses partial understanding

Feedback should be given when it can help a student move forward.  To give a student who needs further instruction feedback would be more frustrating to both student and teacher than helpful.  Only when there is partial understanding is feedback helpful.

4. Effective feedback does not do the thinking for the student

The best example I have for this is correcting conventions in an essay.  If one has taught sentence fragments, comma splices, and the use of semi-colons, rather than correcting each fragment in completed essays, mark the line where the error occurs and have the student correct it.  Students have a task and incentive to use the teacher's comments/feedback to move their learning forward.

5. Effective feedback limits corrective to what students can act on

Differentiate feedback to what an individual student can handle at one point in time.

Methods to offer feedback

Chappuis (2000) suggests using picture and symbol clues (p. 75) like stars and stairs to make comments on student work.  Students could also offer their own stars and stairs - what they think they do well and what they need to improve - before the teacher adds their comments.  Two-color highlighting (p. 82) is another way for students to self assess.  They highlight the sections of the rubric they believe they meet before the teacher, using a different color highlights their own assessment.  By using two primary colors, this could easily identify for the student where they and the teacher are in agreement.

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