Teachers for Teachers | Rethinking the Role of Feedback in Our Conferences and Small Groups
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Rethinking the Role of Feedback in Our Conferences and Small Groups

We spent the day with Jennifer Serravallo.  She is a wonderful presenter and has so much to share.  If you haven’t had the chance to see her yet, we highly recommend seeing her or joining one of her webinars.  There is too much for us to share it all (although you can check out our tweets @ClareandTammy). One thing we found ourselves talking about in the car on the way home was the importance of feedback in our small groups and conferences.

Black and Wiliam’ s research asserts, “Our profession needs to improve the quality of the feedback we give our students and the feedback our students give themselves.”   As we listened to Jennifer today we could not help but reflect on the opportunities that small groups and conferring provide for us to assess our readers and bring this idea of feedback into our assessment process.  Susan Brookhart suggests that teachers provide opportunities for students to participate in generating feedback rather than acting as passive receivers.  For example, rather than telling the student all the things you notice about his or her work, start by asking, “What are you noticing about this?  Why did you decide to do it this way?”

The design of our small group and individual lessons (see below) allows us to bring this opportunity for student-generated feedback in the pre-assessment segment.


The lesson design we use begins with a pre-assessment question.  This gives us an opportunity to talk with kids about what we are noticing and hear from them about what they are noticing.  Although we have been using this design for years, we have never thought about it as an opportunity for our students’ and us to provide feedback to each other.

Jennifer emphasized the importance of using this time to listen to our students, share data with them and then name and notice what we are observing about them as readers.  Our readers need to know their goals in order to achieve them.  They need to be able to identify:

1)   What I am trying to learn?

2)   How am I doing right now?

3)   What are my next steps as a learner?

When we think about small group instruction in this way then assessment and instruction our inseparable.  Purposeful instruction is based on assessment.  When we are teaching we are also listening to how our readers are responding to the learning process and watching them apply new learning.   This gives us an opportunity to collect authentic, formative assessment data during instruction so we can use this to adjust our instruction.  It also gives us an opportunity to use all the information we have to give our students feedback.  “Assessment for learning includes feedback for learning.  Feedback tells students where they are on the continuum.  They understand how they are progressing toward the goal and where they need to improve so they can continue to progress.  In this way, students generate their own feedback and become partners with teachers in setting goals for what comes next in their own learning.”  Katie Rapp

Thanks Jennifer for reminding us to think about using authentic assessment during our small groups and conferences as an opportunity to include our students in a feedback loop so they can engage in their learning and make strategic plans to progress towards their goals.  We know that targeted feedback and goals have greatest impact on both student engagement and achievement – making it a part of our instructional practice will ensure we do it every day

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