Rethinking learning maps #3: How do I align feedback with big learning goals and with self-regulated learning?

This is the third in a series of blog posts about my inquiry project for my current coursework. The first two can be found here and here. This post represents the second step in what I had outlined as my monitoring process, and it was much bigger than I had anticipated. Here’s what I wrote as my proximal goal for this step:

“I will research recommended feedback elements and strategies for the types of interactions and learning experiences students typically engage in during language learning. This will include teacher to student feedback, peer observation and feedback, self-assessment, and group/partner feedback. Using the research, I will create a checklist and categorize my existing feedback tools. This will give me an early indicator of gaps in my current resources.”

The resources I initially identified were these:

  1. Susan Brookhart’s presentation on formative assessment strategies (especially p.30-47)
  2. BC curriculum documents from 2016 (saved on my computer) and the revised version from 2018  
  3. Katy Arnett and Renée Bourgoin’s 2018 book, Access for Success: Making Inclusion Work for Language Learners. I’m specifically using chapters 4 (Taking Charge of One’s Own Learning: Empowering Second Language Learners) and 10 (Assessment and Decision Making in Support of Inclusive Language Education) and the companion website for the book.
  4. Issues of Corrective Feedback in Second Language Acquisition – research by a doctoral student examining the literature on three significant issues: (1) learners’ noticing of feedback, (2) potential mismatches between teachers’ intentions and learners’ interpretations, and (3) the role of different types of implicit corrective feedback.   
  5. A webpage from Carleton University giving examples of activities that develop self-regulated learning paired with research on encouraging self-regulated learning in the classroom by Sharon Zumbrunn, Joseph Tadlock, and Elizabeth D. Roberts, found here.

I used the curriculum document extensively in my rewriting of my learning map, documented in my last blog post, but I am continuing to go back to it to ensure that the rest of my process aligns with the curriculum. I spent some time reviewing the resources I had, and had a list of general features of formative assessment and feedback. However, much of what was suggested seemed to apply to tasks which required students to produce written work and was quite general. I needed more specific information. With that in mind, I also looked at the following list of resources:

  1. David J. Nicol and Debra Macfarlane-Dick’s 2006 study titled Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice
  2. Heidi Andrade and Susan Brookhart’s 2019 article titled Classroom Assessment as the Co-regulation of Learning

My purpose was to put together a checklist of elements of good feedback, and strategies that can be used in classroom assessment to incorporate them. Here’s what I learned.

Elements of good feedback

Good feedback…

  1. ...helps clarify what good performance is. It communicates goals, criteria, and expected standards. It’s critical that this be understood in the same way by the students and the teacher in order to help students set their own goals, maintain their motivation, select appropriate strategies to get there, monitor their progress, assess their own performance, etc.
  2. …facilitates the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning. I was interested to learn that the Common European Framework of Reference was constructed in a way that asserts that students can and should self-assess, and that self-assessment is a particularly useful tool in language learning. The ability to self-assess and think about one’s learning grows with age, maturity, and practice, and can be developed as a powerful learning tool over time.
  3. …delivers high quality information to students about their learning. Feedback should be specific, and connected to the goals and to the task or context for learning.
  4. …encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning. Although it can be challenging to do in large classes or when a teacher has a large number of students for whom they are responsible, the dialogue is important because it allows students to check their understanding of goals and feedback, and to gain a clearer understanding of where their performance stands in relation to them.
  5. ...encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. Motivation and self-esteem are closely linked to students’ beliefs about themselves and their identities in a learning environment. These two factors also affect how much effort a student is likely to put in, and whether they will choose a similar activity again in the future.
  6. …provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance. Current performance indicates how a student is doing in relation to learning goals, the desired performance is the goal, and the opportunities to close the gap are ways in which the student can reach the goal. In order to achieve this, feedback should be timely and given at a point in the self-regulation/assessment cycle that ensures that students are connecting information from the feedback accurately to their current performance, and can use it to improve future performances.
  7. …provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching. One of the areas in which this can be especially helpful is in differentiating instruction and support for various students in a class. Both teachers and students need to focus on skills and process rather than numbers and grades when considering next steps in learning.

The list of strategies that can be used to incorporate the elements listed above is very long, and I can’t document all of them here. I have chosen strategies that specifically apply to my work as a second language teacher, but many will apply to a wide range of subject areas. Here is a sample of what I have learned so far.

  1. To help clarify what good performance is…
    1. give students clearly written copies of criteria
    2. include performance level descriptions
    3. show exemplars and invite discussion around how and why they meet the criteria
    4. model an example of goal-setting based on criteria.
    5. provide opportunities for discussion and reflection around criteria in class. This can take place before, during, and after an assignment, and can include examples of prior learning, background knowledge, strategy selection, and more.
    6. use peer assessment to invite discussion about criteria, expectations and standards in relation to student work.
    7. encourage collaboration based on criteria.
    8. for longer, more complex tasks, use conferencing or mini-workshops to facilitate teacher-student dialogue around criteria and work samples.
  2. To facilitate self-assessment and reflection in learning…
    1. ask students to reflect on the quality of their work in relation to the criteria.
    2. ask students to assess how identify what steps they might take to revise their work and get closer to the criteria.
    3. ask students to identify the strategies used in performing a task and connect them to the goal and/or criteria.
    4. use a mixture of self-assessment, peer feedback, teacher feedback, and reflection incorporating a variety of sources of input.
    5. ask students to request what kind of feedback they would like in response to their work (and if relevant, explain how that fits with their goals).
    6. ask students to identify strengths and areas for improvement before handing in their work. This will also be feedback for the teacher regarding how well the student has understood the task.
    7. ask students to reflect on their performance and select work for a portfolio
    8. reflect on prior performance milestones and ways in which those were accomplished, and consider how that can be used in future learning.
  3. To help deliver high quality information to students about their learning…
    1. use separate criteria and feedback sheets.
    2. don’t overwhelm students with too much information about their performance.
    3. make feedback actionable and directly connected to the task, criteria and goals.
    4. present feedback that encourages a holistic understanding of a task rather than a checklist approach.
    5. provide timely feedback so that students can use it prior to assessment.
    6. provide corrective feedback (the research on whether this should be positive or negative in second language acquisition is inconclusive, but a general recommendation would be to use a mixture of both, regardless of whether it results in an immediate and/or long-term change in performance)
    7. prioritize areas for improvement
  4. To help encourage teacher and peer dialogue around learning…
    1. use devices such as the one-minute paper or adapt questions like those found here to create a similar structure.
    2. use small group discussions after feedback has been handed out to students.
    3. ask students to read feedback comments they have been given on prior, similar assignments and ask them to discuss them with peers, suggesting strategies to improve future performance.
    4. ask students to find one or two examples of specific feedback comments they found helpful and explain how or why they helped.
    5. ask students to give one another descriptive feedback on their learning, based on the criteria, and prior to submitting their work.
    6. in group work, ask students to discuss criteria, standards and goals before beginning to work.
  5. To help encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem…
    1. praise elements over which the student has control like effort and strategy use rather than ability or intelligence.
    2. evaluate the performance in context, and connect it to other learning contexts. For example, if the task is written, provide feedback connecting it to a similar task performed through speaking.
    3. provide marks on work only after students have responded to feedback or comments.
    4. use drafts and resubmissions. In a second language class, ensure this applies to all modalities (speaking, listening/viewing, reading, and writing).
  6. To help provide opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance…
    1. provide feedback on work in progress.
    2. provide opportunities for resubmission.
    3. use two-stage assessments where feedback on stage one helps improve stage two.
    4. model strategies that students might use to close a gap in class and encourage discussion.
    5. discuss strategy selection and ask students to explain how the strategies they chose connect to the criteria, standards, or goal.
    6. specifically provide action points along with feedback.
    7. ask students to work in groups to provide feedback and action points for each other.
  7. To help provide information to teachers that can be used to shape teaching…
    1. use a structure similar to one minute papers (listed above in #4)
    2. ask students to request what feedback they would like when submitting an assignment.
    3. ask students to identify where they are having difficulties.
    4. ask students (individually or in groups) to identify a question worth asking about the criteria, process, feedback, or other parts of the process and discuss their questions.
    5. look at assessment and feedback as co-regulation of learning. Students are responsible for constructing their learning, and the dialogue invites the teacher and peers into the self-regulation process.
    6. use the information provided by assessment and feedback to guide decisions about next steps and individualize or differentiate instruction.

My goal for this step was ambitious. I did do a lot of reading, and found a lot of information. I did not get to the evaluation and categorizing of my current feedback tools and structures, and because that is too important to rush, that will be my next goal.

“Blueprint”by Will Scullin is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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