Posted in Education, Humanities, Teaching

The Power of Feedback

What do Picasso, Mozart, and Dan Brown all have in common?  They are all great artists who developed their craft through feedback.  Picasso didn’t just wake up one day and paint his masterpieces, oh no.  He needed to be trained and taught.  He needed to practice, receive feedback, and try again.  I’m sure many of his early works were quite different from his most famous pieces.  The same goes for Mozart and Dan Brown.  Great artists, authors, musicians, and even teachers need feedback in order to grow.  If it weren’t for my co-teachers over the past several years, I would not be the teacher I am today.  I utilized the feedback I received from them to grow my craft.  Their feedback offered me a different perspective on what I was doing in the classroom.  It was useful and constructive.  The only way we can grow and mature as people is to receive feedback from others.  How am I doing?  What can I do to improve?  How can I become a better football player?  Feedback is a crucial part of the learning process.

To help my students begin to see the power of feedback, I tried something new in Humanities class today.  Instead of having the students peer review with a table partner and revise their Goodreads Update from yesterday based on one person’s feedback, I had the students receive feedback from five different students in the class.  I called it Popcorn Peer Review.  Each student began the process with their assigned table partner.  They had five minutes to read over their partner’s update, complete a checklist with feedback and suggestions, and have a conversation about how they can revise their piece.  Then, they switched partners and did it all over again.  This process continued for a total of five times.  I wanted the students to receive lots of feedback before they began revising their update.  For a few of the students, the feedback was the same, but for most of the boys, they received different feedback from each of the students.  This allowed them much fodder for revising their piece.

At the start of the activity, I explained why we were completing the peer review process this way.  “In order to effectively revise your writing, you need lots of feedback.  Instead of just receiving feedback from one person, you will be receiving feedback from many people.  The more feedback you receive, the easier time you will have in revising your update.”  The students seemed to get it as they were committed to putting forth great effort during the Popcorn Peer Review process.  They provided their partners with specific feedback and ways to improve their update.  They then utilized this feedback to revise their writing and create a more final version.  By the time my co-teacher and I saw their updates, they were almost all quite strong and needed little improvement.  Because they received lots of feedback, they were able to effectively revise their update.  I was impressed.

As I had never done peer review in this manner, I was excited by the outcome.  The students made great use of the experience to provide their partners with specific feedback.  They also then made use of the feedback to improve their writing.  Because we want our students to see the benefit in feedback and how it can help them to grow and develop as learners, we reminded them of its power at the end of class.  “You all did a great job helping provide your partners with feedback that will help them revise their writing in order to receive a 4/4 on the graded objective of writing about your reading.  Great work today!”  As the year progresses, we will continue to help our students see how important receiving feedback is to the learning process.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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