My students are starting to wrap up their first project of the school year, which is to create a model of a food web. They are doing some amazing work … and I couldn’t be happier with all they have accomplished so far. At this point in the process, we start peer reviewing to get some great feedback to help our work.
To kick off our peer reviewing process, I led a little discussion. I asked each of my classes to give me the worst kind of feedback they could think of. They talked in small groups and came up with some ideas. Hands down, the number one answer that sixth graders came up with as an example of not-so-good feedback was …
To say I was shocked by this is an understatement. Here I was, expecting them to say that negative feedback wasn’t helpful or that all feedback was good. I was happily, amazingly floored. It was what I was hoping to coach them into during the course of our discussion, but here they were, coming up with the idea all on their own.
What they said next was even more phenomenal to me, as they all had a really good reason why. My amazing sixth graders really keyed in on the idea that feedback is good if it enhances learning. It encourages you, showing what you have done well. It also spurs you on by highlighting what you need to work on. Good feedback is for learning, not just something you say at the end of it.
As we continue working on our food webs, the student conversations just keep getting better and better. Every once in awhile, I will overhear somebody default to a generic compliment of “Well done!” or “Nice work!” It is to be expected, and there is nothing wrong with simple pat on the back now and then. However, the response by the other students has been ridiculously cool … they simply ask for more specific feedback to help them learn. No doubt about it, that is just plain awesome.
As we move forward in this school year, I’ll heed their advice as I conference with each and every one of them, making them hold me to the same expectation that my feedback enhances their learning. All of this feedback for learning goes a long way in cultivating a classroom culture that is squarely centered on learning itself. And that, my friends, is pretty cool.
As always, I would appreciate any blog feedback you have in the comments section below. I’m going to make one small request though … don’t use the words “Good job.”