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Growth Over Grades: How a Resubmit Policy Is Helping Us Build a Culture of Revision

This article originally appeared in EdSurge.
"Are you going to resubmit your chemical changes model?" Valentina asked Jayda.
"I'm not sure,” Jayda responded, “I'm already at proficient and I understand all the concepts, so mastery work wouldn't really be worth it for me." 
Hearing a student say that work isn’t worth it would send most teachers into a downward spiral, but these words brought me joy. Jayda was confident that she understood the material, and hearing her make a choice not to pursue additional work for the purpose of chasing an extra few points on her grade made me proud.
At Forest Ridge, an independent all-girls school serving students in grades 5-12 in Bellevue, Wash., we've been grappling with how to support students in focusing on growth over grades for years.
In 2016, our school began putting intentional effort into getting our students to value the learning process and to focus on growth rather than grades. At the same time, our m…
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How Improving Student Feedback and Teaching Data Science Restored Our Classroom Culture

This article original appeared in EdSurge.

Over winter break in 2015, I found myself scouring the internet for career alternatives that would take me out of the classroom. I was in my fifth year of teaching at Forest Ridge, an independent all-girls school serving students in grades 5-12 in Bellevue, Wash., and I was feeling isolated in a room with students who didn’t seem to want to engage with my class, despite all my efforts to bring enthusiasm and passion to my work. The learning environment was tense, my students were angsty and I didn't have the information or strategies to make it better. I wanted to go back to my previous life as a geologist, where everything was quantifiable and the path forward was always revealed through methodical data analysis. Little did I know that by 2019 I would find a way to apply the data science strategies I learned as a geologist to bring joy and engagement back to my classroom. This Class is Unfair The pivotal class I was teaching at the time …

Part 4 - Tools for an Equitable Feedback System: Accessible Feedback

This series of posts will cover a variety of bite-sized strategies that can be incorporated into a more holistic feedback system. To learn more about the research behind these approaches, we recommend you first read our white paper.

Part 1 - Feedback is Emotional
Part 2 - Engaging with Criteria
Part 3 - Actively Seeking Feedback

So far we've established that students need to be emotionally open to feedback, they need to understand the grading criteria, and they should be encouraged to seek out feedback. Your students are primed and ready for meaningful feedback...but then it never comes. According to my students and students across the globe, this is common. They know they need feedback but they aren't getting enough...or maybe it's just not getting to them?

In order for feedback to be useful it must be accessible. This means that it must arrive in a timely manner, it must make it to them both literally and cognitively, and it must be comprehendible. If you've done the wo…

Eliciting Student Voice During Instruction

Washington state is becoming the first in the nation to include student voice as a standard in the edTPA teacher certification portfolio assessment. They define student voice as:
Ongoing reflective self-assessment expressed in the words of the learner for the purpose of improving teaching and learning.  The edTPA breaks the portfolio down into three tasks: planning, instruction, and assessment, and plans to add a rubric addressing student voice to each of the tasks.

Adding a Feedback Question to Daily Warm-ups

Do you check in with your students every day? Maybe a warm up or exit ticket? Amy Morriss, who teaches high school Physics, Engineering, and Robotics outside of New Orleans, LA, uses a graphic organizer for problem solving and elevated her bell work to include a feedback question:

We set professional goals at the beginning of the year, and my goal was around more and earlier intervention on problem solving in Physics. A lot of kids seem to get it, but then they get to the test and then can't execute on problem solving. 

Part 3 - Tools for an Equitable Feedback System: Actively Seeking Feedback

This series of posts will cover a variety of bite-sized strategies that can be incorporated into a more holistic feedback system. To learn more about the research behind these approaches, we recommend you first read our white paper.

Part 1 - Feedback is Emotional
Part 2 - Engaging with Criteria

Winstone, Nash, Parker, & Rowntree (2017) argue that proactive recipience is necessary for students to fully benefit from feedback information. Proactive recipience is "a state or activity of engaging actively with feedback processes, thus emphasizing the fundamental contribution and responsibility of the learner.” The information communicated in formative feedback is just part of the equation; it won't have significant impacts on student learning unless students also develop feedback literacy and the agency to act on feedback.

Creating systems that encourage student to actively seek out feedback, and planning activities that teach the skills of seeking feedback, will support student…

Part 2 - Tools for an Equitable Feedback System: Engaging with Criteria

This series of posts will cover a variety of bite-sized strategies that can be incorporated into a more holistic feedback system. To learn more about the research behind these approaches, we recommend you first read our white paper.

Part 1 - Feedback is Emotional

For feedback information to be useful, it must communicate:  Where am I going? (What are the goals?)How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).  Supporting students in engaging with the grading criteria helps give context to the feedback to come. In other words, it does the groundwork of helping them determine for themselves, "Where am I going?"

Part 1 - Tools for an Equitable Feedback System: Feedback is Emotional

This series of posts will cover a variety of bite-sized strategies that can be incorporated into a more holistic feedback system. To learn more about the research behind these approaches, we recommend you first read our white paper.

Most of us have experienced that moment where you pass back papers, full of rich and detailed feedback, and watch a student walk out of class and drop it in the recycling. It's hard not to take it personally. Why do some of our students struggle so much with receiving and using feedback?

Peer Feedback on Student Presentations: Use Roles for Better Feedback and Engagement

When students provide feedback to each other on presentations, do you wonder:
How do I help students give each other meaningful feedback?How do I keep all students engaged during presentations and presentation feedback? One solution to both of these challenges is assigning feedback roles.
Roles during practice presentations For team presentations, I have students practice and give feedback with another team. For the team presenting, all team members stand and present as if it were the real thing. For the team giving feedback, each person focuses on a different aspect of presentation feedback. Here are roles I've used for 3-4 people teams:
Content - Provide feedback on the content of the presentationPresentation Skills - Observe and provide feedback on presentation skills and slide designTimer - Write down the times for each part of the presentation (or video tape it!) If you provide each role feedback guidelines, like a checklist, questions, or rubric, it can help students give each…

Writing Strong Criteria for Peer Review

A great peer review assignment is open-ended. A closed-ended question is a closed door. Open-ended assignments are an invitation to think critically and creatively about a topic. There is a time and place in instruction and assessment for closed-ended questions – we need to know what our students can recall and understand before we know they’re ready to move on to higher-order tasks. But the great assignments, the one’s we share with our colleagues and the ones that grow our students confidence, are open-ended.
A great criteria is singular, challenging, and a bit subjective. As teachers, we are subject area experts. One of our tasks is to help our students become experts themselves. This means that we must clearly define for them what excellent work looks like. We do this with our assignment criteria. By distilling our assignments down to smaller, bite-sized tasks, we can bring the focus in on one, single criteria. Our instruction and feedback, then, can elevate student work and allo…

Floop Team & Dr. Naomi Winstone: What does the research say about feedback best practices?

Over winter break, Floop co-founder Melanie and I had the privilege of talking with prominent feedback researcher Dr. Naomi Winstone. Her research has discovered that feedback interventions all seem to target at least one of four metacognitive skills, described by the SAGE process, and hypothesizes that a holistic approach to developing feedback systems should target all four of the skills: Self-Appraisal: judging one's abilitiesAssessment Literacy: understanding the grading process, standards, and criteriaGoal-Setting & Self-Reflection: being goal-oriented and monitoring progress to meet outcomesEngagement & Motivation: having an attitude of receptiveness to performance information Essentially, for feedback to reach that level of effectiveness that we've heard from experts like Hattie & Timperly, students need to be motivated to engage with feedback and have the feedback literacy skills to use it, and the instructional environment must give them the agency to act …

5-Minute Energizers to Activate You and Your Students

We're officially in the grind. I ask my teacher colleagues how they're doing, and the standard response is a sigh: "I'm really looking forward to catching up on grading over the 3-day weekend," "I'm counting down the days until Thanksgiving," "I have 20 letters of recommendation to write."
If we're feeling this way, our students are too! Here are super quick activities to inject energy back into your classroom: Snap, Stomp, Clap (Partners) Each person counts off to 3, i.e. Person A: "1", Person B: "2", Person A: "3", Person B: "1", etc. When everyone gets the hang of it, try it again, but replace 1's with a snap of the fingers (snap, 2, 3, snap, 2, 3, etc.) Do it again, but also replace 3's with a stomp (snap, 2, stomp, snap, 2, stomp, etc.) Do it again, but also replace 2's with a clap (snap, clap, stomp, snap, clap, stomp, etc.) Gift Giving Game (Partners) Person A pantomimes givin…

"Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science."

This week I want to share a quick story of a student comment that I've been chewing on. I have a student in my 8th grade science class who I really enjoy working with. She's funny and frank and a few days ago she said something that just kills me:
"Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science." I followed up in the way I usually do:
"Oh, that makes me so sad! Tell me, what subject do you like?" We went on to have a great conversation about her love for social studies and English, her favorite and least favorite books, and what she does in her free time. The next day, she brought it up again and added the detail that hit me hardest:
"Ms. Witcher, do you know why I hate science? I had this teacher in fourth grade who didn't explain anything and then failed me in math and science."
This explains a lot. It's wild to me that a student could hate a subject--but I get it. I hated math as a student...and now I teach math. It has me thinking, what changed…

Anatomy of Useful Feedback

Useful feedback is...
It tells the learner... Teacher feedback might look like... Peer feedback might look like... Try Floop

How Floop Started: Startup Weekend EDU from an Educator’s Perspective

Re-posted from the Seattle Public Library's Shelf Talk blog. I wrote this blog post back in 2016 to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of Startup Weekend EDU Seattle 2015, the weekend where Floop got started!It's been almost 3 years since then, and now, Startup Weekend EDU Seattle 2018 is just around the corner. Learn more about Startup Weekend EDU Seattle here. Last year, Startup Weekend EDU started with rapid-fire pitches. In one minute each, participants shared their idea for improving education. One problem pitched by an educator jumped out to me: Teachers don’t have enough time to give the high-quality feedback that students need. Floop would enable a fast feedback loop between students and teachers. As a high school math and engineering teacher, I related with this problem all too well. I was even carrying around my paper stack of 150 quizzes with the hope that I could grade during downtime.

Team Floop at SWEDU 2015After the pitches, we formed teams around the ideas that …

3 Free Feedback Tools You've Never Heard Of

Today is a quick post with some free stuff! 1. Growth Report Google SheetGet It Here If you're interested in producing a richer, more useful "grade" (i.e. growth) report for students, try this Google sheet template. You'll need some intermediate Google sheets/ Excel skills and it works best if you're already using standards based assessment practices.

2. Rapid Feedback Authoring ToolGet It Here This website helps you create a form and then use it to quickly write narrative feedback to students. The drag-and-drop comment bank makes writing feedback even faster, freeing your brain to focus on student work.

3. OBS Screen Recording SoftwareGet It Here This open-source screen capture software is really easy to use and produces high-quality videos in many formats. I like to capture myself inking on student work and narrating feedback. I then paste the video into OneNote, or upload it as unlisted to YouTube and send students the link. It's also easy for students to…