Change how students receive feedback to encourage growth.
I remember disagreeing with a coach in high school during a Friday night football game. I was on defense, and the running back for the opposing team got past me for a first down. My coach quickly told me that I didn't do my job correctly (in slightly different words … ), and like any 16-year-old boy who had just been criticized, I denied it. His response was, "We'll see what the film says tomorrow."
The day after every game was "film day" where we collaboratively (players and coaches) watched a recording of our game and had a chance to see what truly happened, with the goal being to identify areas for improvement that could then be remedied prior to the next game. While the exercise of watching yourself on film was often painful, the experience was overwhelmingly positive in that the whole team came together to collectively evaluate our individual and group performances, and we worked to support each other during the viewing of our best and worst plays. Through this process, we not only were able to improve our individual skills, but more importantly, we grew to become more self-aware as athletes and people. From these film sessions, I learned that it is a lot easier to see the truth when you look at it from the outside with a fresh set of eyes and some help from your friends.
Fast-forward to my fifth year as a social studies teacher. I wanted to help develop my students' multimedia and oral-presentation skills, and after grading the first set of student presentations and returning the assessment rubrics, a few students disputed their scores. Some argued that their pacing and volume had been more appropriate than I'd given them credit for, while others had no idea that their nervous tics were pervasive throughout their entire presentations. While I was as objective as possible in my assessment of their skills, these students didn't have the luxury of evaluating their work from the perspective of an outsider like I did. To remedy this lack of awareness and increase the speed and intensity of their growth as speakers, I needed to provide them with a clear picture of what I and their classmates were seeing.
I began to require all students to partner and record their presentations for subsequent analysis. A recording of an actual presentation that is given to a crowd not only provides a clear perspective of body language and eye contact but also can provide more insight into speaking quality through the ability to self-evaluate tone, speed, and volume. This exercise dramatically increased the students' growth process because they received clear feedback in a timely manner -- and, of course, eliminated disputes related to marks earned on rubrics!
Video-Recorded Paper Feedback
I remember struggling on English papers as a K–12 student. Oftentimes I would receive graded papers that had red annotations all over them, and while I wasn't intimidated by the red ink, I definitely wasn't enlightened by the abbreviations and symbols that covered my paper from top to bottom to denote every grammatical or stylistic mistake that I'd made. In reality, I had caring teachers who were willing to spend all that time grading my papers, but unfortunately, they weren't getting results that matched their efforts, because the feedback they gave wasn't actionable. I didn't understand it, and because of that, I couldn't do anything with it.
With my own student experiences in mind, I began to ideate a better approach to grading research papers. Working collaboratively with my English language arts partner, we developed an instructional technology plan to maximize the impact of the feedback that we gave. Our goal was to increase the clarity and availability of our feedback by producing video recordings of us annotating and explaining feedback to our students.
After researching and testing out some tools, we found that we could quickly and effectively accomplish this using iPads and the Explain Everything app. In this approach, students turned in their work as PDFs, and we opened those PDFs in Explain Everything, recorded ourselves marking up their work and explaining each mark, then sent a video file back to the student. From there, students were required to watch the video, make corrections based on our suggestions, and then resubmit their work for a final grade. While the feedback quality improved, what was more impressive was that many students took it upon themselves to conduct peer reviews in this fashion to support each other.
Video feedback is empowering and supports student growth in the forms of increased self-awareness, open-mindedness, and willingness to receive feedback. This type of growth is essential for all students. Just ask the former football player in me.