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Self-Assessment as the Starting Point for Holistic Feedback Systems

Every time I try a new unit, it seems like giving formative feedback is a more daunting task than usual. There are problems that crop up that I can’t anticipate as well as new activities and assessments to design. Time for prep and feedback are both in short supply.

Still, I was energized by Floop’s recent research on holistic feedback systems and wanted to add a new feedback activity to the mix.

Here’s what my lesson planning looked like on our formative “feedback days.”
  • Entry Task: self-assessment
  • Learning Activities: peer review, discussion, revision planning
  • Teacher Task: Select exactly one criterion per student necessitating teacher feedback. Make that selection based on self-assessment and peer review results.
After skimming the feedback forms for self-assessment and then peer review data, I asked myself: where can I make the most impact in a short amount of time? Having students color-code their results traffic light style made the work more visible and therefore faster as I moved around the room:


SAS is the acronym my students came up with for remembering the type of feedback they want, feedback that is specific, actionable, and supportive.

By using this method, I was able to give teacher feedback to most of my students during class. I also found (and I hesitate to write this) that for a handful of students, I didn’t need to actually look at the student’s work to give needed feedback. I simply noticed the challenge present based on their feedback form and pointed the student toward a specific strategy. If the student felt she had received the tip she needed to make progress, I moved on to the next student.

Sure, there were kids who needed more in-depth conversation, but, the triage work of offering targeted, formative feedback had already been done for me, first by the students and then by their peers. Better still, because of this process, each student had continued building feedback literacy skills and was more than ready to write a personalized revision plan by the end of class. And, as their teacher, I felt a bit closer to having implemented a holistic and efficient feedback system.

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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?"


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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?