Providing feedback that moves learning forward

Formative Assessment is a powerful learning tool
Formative Assessment is a powerful learning tool

I just finished reading a chapter in the book titled, Embedded Formative Assessment, by Dylan Wiliam.  I highly recommend it so far.   A math teacher in our high school recommended it to me.  I thought I’d list a few of Dylan’s ideas/statements that made me think.   I just shared these with me fellow Pre-Algebra math teachers in hopes of bringing about some changes especially in terms of using formative and summative assessments in the classroom.

  • Giving scores alongside comments completely washed out the beneficial effects of the comments; students who got high scores didn’t need to read the comments, ad student who got low scores didn’t want to.
  • The provision of grades and written praise has no effect on achievement; their only effect was to increase the sense of ego involvement.
  • When students could peek ahead and look at answers to questions before they tried to answer them, they learned significantly less than when they had to attempt to answer the question before getting feedback
  • If the information fed back to the learner is intended to be helpful but cannot be used by the learner in improving her performance, it is NOT formative. (Hmmmm…)
  • Never grade students while they are still learning (I am thinking about not assigning a grade to my Concept Checks this year, only written feedback/comments.)
  • Drum roll….the idea that a student’s grade for a particular piece of work can never go down: the problem with this system is that there is no incentive for students to make the first submission as good as it can be, because it can always be remediated in a second submission. (This is really making me think about the use of 2nd chance testing procedures we did with our classes last year.)
  • One teacher in San Francisco when he grades work, it either comes back with an A or is returned with a note saying it is not yet ready to be evaluated.
  • As well as comments, each student receives a symbol of – , +, or = depending on whether the work submitted was not as good as, about the same as, or better than his or her last work on the topic (I am thinking this would be awesome technique).  He says the important feature about this grading scheme is that it feeds back to learners about things that are within their control (whether they are improving), rather than things not in control (how they compare with other students). (I like this idea! In my school, our high achievers might hate it but it would be good for them.)
  • Effective classroom feedback should be more work for the recipient that the donor!!!! Can someone say AMEN. (I have a problem with this! Help.)

What are your thoughts?

Written by Guest Blogger: Jennifer Timmis, The Westminster Schools

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