Giving Formative Feedback?

I was reading this post by Carolyn Durley on formative feedback, and a sinking feeling came over me.  I’ve read a lot about Assessment For Learning and Formative Assessment, I’ve tried to incorporate AFL in my classes, I pride myself on my SBG, and yet I’m starting to doubt whether I’m giving good feedback to my students.

What I do know is that I give my students multiple ways for them to reflect on what they are doing and how things are going. They have clear learning intentions, and their quizzes are targeted giving clear feedback on what topics they need to improve on.  As well, I try to spend a lot of time walking around the room, checking on student work and using Socratic questioning.  Since I allow ample time in class to work on practice questions, this can be an effective way to check-in with the students and give feedback.

However, I don’t give a lot of individual written feedback to students once deficiencies are revealed.  This is where I really need to think about things.  If a student does not quite get a learning objective, what can I do  for them to help them get past their block?  What kind of individual feedback can I give? In many ways, I’ve already played most of my cards.  While scaffolding the topic I’ve probably incorporated a strong mix of inquiry, exploration, collaboration and team work, as well as some direct instruction or math proof, and finally a selection of problems that the topic extends to.  So generally speaking, I don’t have a lot of other techniques to employ.  Furthermore, I’m not convinced that correcting questions on quizzes is of any help at all.

I think maybe at the level of Physics 11 and 12, a lot really depends upon the students self-advocating for themselves.  I give them tools and an environment for learning, along with the understanding of what is expected and where they’re at.  In many ways it is then up to them to determine what to do next. Do they want individual help from me? Do they need to just focus more during class? I think a lot of my students that struggle do so because they are not focused during class - this is another issue that I’ve been working on and improving lately.

One tool that I’ve used in the past is a “two stars and a wish.”  I think I should incorporate this more, even though many students see it as an unnecessary task.

With this sheet filled out and returned to me, I can then target students and give them specific feedback that hopefully will help them.

The main thing I need to keep in mind is that this whole process of AFL and feedback involves continuous improvement for both my students and myself.  As I get better at asking questions, I will be able to  have my students better their learning.