Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving Meaningful Feedback on Writing

As an English teacher, it is all too easy to provide students with copious amounts of written comments and feedback on their writing. In my first year of teaching, this is exactly what I did. I learned all too quickly, though, that this was a complete waste of my time. Students are much more likely to appreciate concise, concrete, and specific feedback that tells them what they did well, what they need to work on, and one other thing to consider for the future. I do the best I can to limit my comments to these three kinds of notes on each student paper, as difficult as that is to do.

At a recent department meeting, I had the opportunity to discuss written feedback with colleagues -- how we use it and what makes the most difference for our students.

Here are some opening questions to consider:
1. What is your department doing that is successful and effective? How do you know?
2. What is your vision for the kind of feedback students should get in your writing program? How can you tell if they are learning from it?
3. How do you encourage consistency while respecting the different styles, strengths, and beliefs of your teachers?

Think of the challenges we face in providing feedback to our students:
1. Time it takes to read so many papers
2. We can't read everything they write.
3. A constant, unending burden
4. It's hard to gauge if comments are useful.

Feedback vs. grading -- justifying the grade --

Research on effective feedback:
Sara Bauer (2011)
Richard Haswell (2006)
George Hillocks (1986)
Barbara Monroe (2002)
G. Genevieve Patthey-Chavez (2004)
Rick VanDeWeghe (2005)

What are the strategies we've tired or been told about?
* Rubrics
* Annotations
* Peer review
* Conferences
* Portfolios
* Response journals
* Audio comments
* Electronic feedback

Some conclusions from the research:

The most effective feedback...
*is timely.
* occurs during the writing process.
* is short, concrete, and focused on what is taught.
* addresses content rather than surface-level errors.
* encourages students to respond or interact.

No one has "The Answer."

"Unfortunately, traditional professional development settings do not help teachers to develop these skills [in providing meaningful feedback]. ...As with students, teachers need opportunities for collaborative assisted professional development in order to grow as instructors and to create more effective learning environments for students." - Genevieve Patthey-Chavez, et al.

"[Students resist] because they are more and more seeing themselves as independent and ultimately free to use language as they wish. They resist because they are students." - Richard Haswell

"The more detailed my comments, the less students would take responsibility for their own texts." - Barbara Monroe

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