Sunday, October 25, 2015

Feedback As a Lever

One of the things that we hope to solidify this year is the practice of providing students with clear and actionable feedback.  The importance of this cannot be overstated, for the more I think about it, the more I find that feedback is central to all of our present initiatives.

We are presently focused on:
  • Student Centered Learning
  • Student Self-Reflection
  • Goal-Setting as a Means To Improved Mastery
  • Release of Responsibility and the Fostering of Independence
  • Data-Driven Instruction
Each rests on a foundation of students knowing where they are.  We work extensively with rubrics in class, and do a lot to help students understand how they are a tool for them to understand their performance, and fodder for their goal-setting efforts.

Because of its centrality to our school's mission I did some reading of some professional text this summer.  Here are a few things to consider:

"John Hattie and Helen Timperley (2007) explained that its [feedbacks] purpose is 'to reduce discrepancies between current understandings and performance and a goal' (p. 86)" (Marzano 2009).

Researcher Valerie Shute said feedback is "information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning. (p. 154)" (Marzano 

"Hattie and Timperley (2007) synthesized the most current and comprehensive research in feedback and summarized findings from twelve previous meta-analyses, incorporating 196 studies and 6,972 ESs** (Effect Size[s]).  They calculated an overall average of 0.79 for feedback (translating to a 29 percentile point gain).  As shown by Hattie (2009), this is twice the average ES of typical educational innovations" (Marzano 2009).

** for an explanation of Effect Size see

Here is a quick graphic that clarifies the jargon above.  The higher the ES the more impactful the practice.

"They (Hattie and Timperley)  argued that feedback regarding the task, the process, and self-regulation is often effective, whereas feedback regarding the self (often delivered as praise) typically does not enhance learning and achievement.

Learning can be enhanced to the degree that students share the challenging goals of learning, adopt self-assessment and evaluation strategies, and develop error detection procedures and heightened self-efficacy to tackle more challenging tasks leading to mastery and understanding of lessons. (Hattie and Timperley (2007)" (Marzano 2009).

One of the things that I have incorporated into all of my written and verbal feedback is one, or two, quick things that a student could do next time to improve their performance.  We all know the importance chunking goals, and it is crucial that we temper student's expectations to go from a low level of performance to an extremely high one.  Just as with SMARTe goals in Base Camp we have to show them how realistic baby-steps are the surest way to guarantee success, and then offer them a couple baby steps to take right away.

Rethinking 3rd Party Learning Assessments

By now you have all administered at least one assessment of your students' learning.  If you are are a humanities teacher you may have used an Expeditionary Learning mid, or end-of, unit assessment. (Math teachers, don't check out yet, for the reveal could be useful to you, even if the particulars are irrelevant.)

The 8th grade team was meeting to norm around a mid-unit assessment aimed at determining student's ability to evaluate author's purpose AND to define unfamiliar words by using context clues. Following our norming session, we intended to score the assessment and enter the data into Mastery Connect.  The rest of this post assumes that you can upload/create an assessment in Mastery Connect. If you cannot I'll refer you to this video:

Click here for video

 The assessment had about 16 questions*, and as is good practice, each question was originally linked to a CCSS.  In this case, RI.8.4, RI.8.6, SL.8.2, and SL.8.3. Because the assessment contained a few questions that were binary in nature, the assessment structure listed them as true/false.  The behind-the-scenes aspect of this assessment (and many to come in the future) seemed intimidating.

While norming we recognized that entering the data for each question would not only require more time, but would actually create a misleading report, for not all of the questions were well-suited to showing a student's mastery.

Instead, we identified multiple best questions for each standard (yet fewer than were originally listed), and bundled them together as sequential criteria in the behind-the-scenes Mastery Connect assessment "adder".

This allowed us to target our scoring efforts, and shaved time off of our data entry.  Both things were done without sacrificing the nature of the assessment, and in the end we were able to transfer a student's level of mastery (as dictated by the cut-scores listed for mastery and near mastery) to a rubric (with actionable feedback) that students are familiar with.

Try to manipulate your next assessment to save time and target your feedback.  You will be happy you did.

Leveraging mastery Connect -- A Mini Inquiry Cycle

Greetings and Salutations

Towards Mastery and Beyond will be a blog that tracks my progress as I work to strengthen my practice with regard to the creation of a robust culture of assessment in my classroom.  Having said that, I must follow with the revelation of my hope that the content that follows will be useful to all teachers. I am aiming to have my shared thoughts be instructive, provocative, open to question and certainly to improvement.

You can look forward to posts dealing with the fundamentals of formative assessment (and the catalyst if you harbor no arsonist impulses), and also some technical tips/tricks for Mastery Connect.
journey towards the implementation of those principles in my classroom), the leveraging of the Mastery Connect tool as an accelerant (or a

I hope you visit often, and enjoy the content.  I will try to keep it as engaging and useful as possible.