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Feedback System for HS Engineering / Entrepreneurship - Melanie Kong

This post is part of a series challenging teachers to consider their feedback system for the new school year. I wanted to share my own feedback system as an example if it helps you think about your own. I’ve taught a variety of STEM courses - Coordinated Science, Geometry, Algebra 1, Engineering - but I’m writing this particular feedback system for a new course I’m starting next year called STEM Startups. In this course, high school students will work in teams to create their own startups. Since it’s a new course, I have a whole lot of latitude in my systems and processes. So, with that context in mind, here is my feedback system!

Instead of your grading system, consider your feedback system. 5 questions to ask yourself.

Why do I value feedback in my classroom?


I believe that feedback is critical in any aspect of life. It’s how we learn from our mistakes and continue developing our strengths. In the classroom context, feedback is what allows me to meet and help every student where they are at. Feedback is also a crucial part of developing strong relationships; if I give consistent, helpful feedback, students trust that I care about them and their growth.

How do I get feedback?


I will get feedback from students in three ways:

  • Assessments - Assessments will include individual notebook entries and weekly reflections, team project checkpoints, and evaluations from startup coaches. From these assessments, I will learn how well students are understanding and implementing the startup process and what I need to do to help them be successful.

  • Observations - Similar to user experience testing, a lot of the feedback I get will be based on watching how students interact with the course and where they feel excited, frustrated, or confused.

  • Asking directly - Once a week, we will start class with a standing meeting where each team presents their progress (Scrum style: What did we do last week? What do we hope to accomplish this week? What’s blocking us?). After teams present, I will ask directly, “Is there anything I could be doing differently to make your life better?” This is a question I stole from the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott which has really opened my perspective on how to give and receive effective feedback.

How do my students get feedback?


Students will get feedback from a number of sources.

  • Their most important feedback comes from customers and users. From interviews and testing, students will get feedback to validate their solutions based on their predetermined metrics (Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs).

  • From their teammates, they will get feedback on their teamwork skills and project contributions through discussions and structured protocols.

  • From me as their teacher, and from their mentors/coaches, they will get feedback on their process and project management through written, oral, and evaluative feedback.

  • And finally, from themselves, they will see their own growth, identifying their own strengths and weaknesses and monitoring progress towards their goals.

For a full breakdown of how my students get feedback, check out the 5W’s of feedback that I will share with students.

How do my students and I act on feedback?


Since this course is brand new, my students’ feedback is crucial in determining the current and future trajectory of the course. I will act on feedback by adapting the curriculum and my teaching practice constantly to meet the needs of my students. Reflections and improvement ideas will documented directly in my lesson materials.

Students will be expected to demonstrate improvement based on feedback. For their startup, they will run lots of experiments and iterate constantly - fail fast, fail often! For individual work or team checkpoints, students will be expected to revise their work until it meets expectations. This will be done through a continuous process of submissions, feedback, and resubmissions through Floop.

What strategies, practices, or tools do I use to facilitate feedback?



  • No grades! - Students will get an A as long as they show they are challenging themselves and growing from feedback. Starting a startup is already fraught with fear of failure without having to worry about academic failure! Removing grades will encourage students to not be afraid of making mistakes. Instead, students will track their learning every week, and at the end of each quarter, students will complete an individual reflection and converse with me to determine their official report card grade (which I fully expect to be all A’s).

  • Floop - I will use Floop for notebook checks, reflections, checkpoints, etc. Any kind of deliverable that students can capture in a photo or screenshot, they will submit and engage in feedback through Floop.

  • Peer assessment - Peers will regularly have to sign off on each others’ notebooks. During team meetings, there will be a protocol for anonymous sharing of team successes and challenges. Finally, formal peer evaluations on teamwork will happen at the end of each module (approximately every 6 weeks).

  • Class discussions showcasing student work - I show examples of student work that excel in certain ways and have room for growth in others. Then, I ask the whole class what this student is doing really well and how the student could improve (“I like, I wish”). Doing this activity often at the beginning of the year is a great way to set shared expectations for high quality work.

  • Coaching spreadsheets - Once we dive into the student-driven startups, each team is assigned an external expert to be their coach. Coaches will leave numerical evaluations and qualitative explanations at the end of each coaching session. This information is stored in a shared spreadsheet accessible by the team, coach, and teacher.

Writing out my feedback system helps me feel confident to create a classroom culture that is student-centered, growth-oriented, and feedback-focused. I hope that reading it helps you think about your own feedback system as well.

What are you favorite feedback strategies and practices? What does your feedback system look like? Please share in the comments below.

Keep us in the F(eedback)loop!

Comments

  1. I wish I had this class in High School! On the side note, since you are giving your students an 'A' as long as they are working. How do you make sure your students are pushing as hard as they can, and are not just taking this class for an "Easy A"?

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  2. Absolutely! I see STEM Startups as being a really student-driven course - students choose an idea they're passionate about and create a startup. Since students have such strong ownership of their work, I think they will naturally care more about the outcomes. Besides the intrinsic motivation of working on a project they care about, students will be accountable to people who are way more important than me, like their users/customers, their startup mentors, investors, etc. Any kind of "grade" that I assign to them will distract them from the metrics that really matter. A lot of my job will be coaching them to learn how to evaluate themselves and their startup's success.

    The "no grades" thing seems much easier for me to maintain in such a student-driven course, but I do see myself keeping grades in the other Engineering course I teach. I would be curious to learn from other teachers how they manage "no grades" in more traditional courses.

    ReplyDelete
  3. […] this chapter just in time for the school year. It’ll be my first official assignment in my entrepreneurship course. Then, this letter will be the benchmark for all future reflections and conferences with students, […]

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  4. […] put much more thought into designing a comprehensive feedback system so that students received feedback from me as well as their users/customers, mentors, peers, and […]

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