Rethinking Feedback: Signs of Growth

I daren’t even Google how many articles/blog posts/books/etc. there are out there which claim to be rethinking feedback: but we’re rolling with it.

Regardless of the title for this post…I think we (Mark and I) may have just revolutionised feedback as we walked to school this morning. We were chatting through the day ahead as usual and Mark mentioned 2 things firstly, he was helping run an assembly about encouraging/developing grit and secondly he needed to design a feedback form for essays his 8th graders are working on.  Suddenly, my brain stuck a few pieces of different puzzles together and threw out an interesting question:

What if instead of giving feedback on a piece of work against levels/grades/rubrics, we gave feedback on signs of growth?

Think for a moment about the impact this could have on both the way teachers think about student work (be it projects, writing, tests, etc.) and on how students view work.  It has the potential to be huge.

The feedback would move away from variations on the conventional what did you do well, what should you do next and towards discussing what evidence the teacher can see of progress.  This may be a student applying prior feedback, it could be a noticeable improvement in communication, an increase in academic honesty, more expression of creativity, the list goes on. A teacher would now look at work not only in terms of meeting a rubric, matching a grade – but instead in terms of that student.  ‘How can you see that they’ve grown as a learner?’ ‘What have they done which shows you they are moving forwards?’ It may also prompt some further questions such as ‘If you can’t see signs of growth, what does this mean about the work they’ve been doing?’

For students, the feedback they receive would directly promote growth mindset, development of skills and PROGRESS. It would potentially feel more personal as it recognises their goals, their previous understanding/skills/etc and how far they have come.  Would it prompt next steps which were more meaningful too? Would this focus on signs of growth make it easier to apply the lessons learned from one learning experience to another? Would it help cultivate growth mindset and grit?

We now need to test this approach out.  We need to try this with students and teachers and see what effect it has. But for now, we’re quietly excited!

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