July 7, 2011

What exactly is meaningful feedback?

In a recent #edchat on Twitter, the discussion of grades turned to one about assessment, and the word "feedback" came up. While lots of people really liked the word, I sensed that some didn't truly understand it. Here is an excerpt from my book, ROLE Reversal, about narrative feedback:
"To thoroughly understand the effect of feedback in place of number or letter grades, let’s begin by considering one large activity or project you might assign. If your class has 1,000 points in a grading period, this project or assignment might comprise 200 of those points, or 20 percent of the final grade. Keeping in mind that the most important goal of the activity is learning, you’re going to eliminate any points, percentages or letters that you previously attached to the assignment. Instead, you will get feedback from the students about the project, and you’ll provide feedback during the work and after it’s completed. What makes this system so successful is that it leaves final judgment in the hands of the student, and it provides a legitimate opportunity for learning. Since feedback is narrative, a teacher can explain exactly what a student needs to do to demonstrate that she has met an objective. Sometimes the feedback is a question that the teacher asks. The student’s response is also feedback – the kind that helps the teacher provide follow-up lessons, which allow for mastery."

Real examples of narrative feedback with connections to mastery learning are coming in future blog posts.