Feedback about the process, not only the content
As education continues to place a greater emphasis on learning skills, such as: critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity; how can teachers ensure they’re providing feedback that will support student’s development within these areas? See how one high school history teacher provides feedback that encourages his student’s to integrate skills across multiple subject areas.
Over the past few weeks we’ve emphasized the important role that feedback plays in the learning progression. We learned that “the most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback,” (Marzano, Pickering & Pollock, 2001) and that 98% of students find receiving feedback important. We also suggested a few strategies teachers and professors can implement in order to make sure the feedback they deliver is effective and efficient. However, we realize a list of hints and tips can seem ideal until it’s actually time to implement them in the classroom. Today we’ll be taking a look inside Joe DelBuono’s high school history classroom to see how he delivers feedback on a day to day basis.
Mr. DelBuono began his teaching career in 1997. It’s safe to say that since that time both the expectations of teachers and students have drastically changed. Although the content he may teach in his history classes has remained largely the same, the skills he teaches his students are anything but. Content knowledge used to be the focus of education, particularly in a subject area such as history. Mr. DelBuono expresses the fact that content knowledge will always be important and providing feedback about content is still very necessary. Students need to be able to understand and utilize information that is correct in order to be successful. However, what has become increasingly more important is the processes students use to complete assignments and the feedback they receive in response to them.
Currently, Mr. DelBuono and other members of the history department at Ramapo High School are focusing their courses on evidence based historical writing. Merely recalling facts about dates, historical figures, and events is not sufficient for this type of in-depth project. First, students must gain experience and become comfortable with the research process. Not only do they need to locate facts and information but they have to select information that will actually add value and support the claims they make within their writing. After completing research, students enter the writing process where they’ll have to develop an introduction, create a thesis, and include evidence. They’ll also need to pay close attention to grammar, making sure they use the correct tense, spelling, punctuation etc. It’s become clear that Mr. DelBuono’’s history class is not just about history, instead he challenges his students to integrate skills across multiple subject-areas. However, it would be unreasonable for Mr. DelBuono to throw a task like this at his students all at once. This is where feedback comes in. Feedback must be provided not only in regards to that initial content knowledge but about each step students take along the way. Providing small, focused points of feedback about the processes students are using makes the feedback more manageable, provides students with a clear goal to strive for, and can be related to other subject areas and assignments.
So far we’ve learned that Mr. DelBuono provides his students with feedback focused on both content and process. However, the teachers at Ramapo High School are taking things one step further. They also provide feedback to their students regarding 21 st Century Learning Skills, which include: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These learning skills were developed to help better prepare students to be successful in work, life and citizenship in the 21 st Century. They were developed by the Partnership for 21 st Century Learning and have been adopted by schools and educators worldwide, including the teachers at Ramapo High School. Just like any other skill or strategy, these need to be explicitly taught and feedback about student’s progress should be provided. Mr. DelBuono doesn’t hesitate to say that this initially seemed very challenging, particularly for the creativity learning skill. How do you teach a student to be creative? How do you suggest ways for students to ‘improve’ their creativity? The history department collaborated to define what creativity might look like within their classes and began utilizing rubrics that could help them evaluate their students work for these skills. This provided his team with a more subjective way to provide feedback that is still detailed and closely related to an objective.
As we were wrapping up our discussion, Joe shared his thoughts on the changes happening within education.
“With the increase in speed and frequency of technology utilized in education, ist’s more important now than ever before to stay focused on quality instruction and skill development for our students.”
Joe DelBuono is the Supervisor of Social Studies at Ramapo High School and the District Supervisor of Music at the Ramapo-Indian Hills Regional High School District. He began his teaching career in 1997 and is most passionate about 20th Century U.S. History.
DigiExam allows you to use rubrics to provide students with feedback.