Thursday, February 16, 2017

An experiment with feedback...

It is community badge presentation eve for the 4th time this school year!  Like with all experiments, there have been a few tweaks made along the way.  Each tweak was born of the priority to make the process as meaningful and impactful as possible for the students with whom I work.  The idea was born of necessity (specifics can be found here).  Four 6 weeks into the process and after constant reflection, I feel comfortable recommending this practice to other educators.

In the process of reflecting on why I was so motivated to implement a seamless, meaningful, and, most importantly, consistently manageable process for providing authentic feedback, I realized that I had not shared some research I while lurking on Twitter in 2013.  That little tweet has been a whispering force that has driven my practice as an educator from the moment I read through it’s linked content.  And, because I am a tweet  hoarder, I have it to share with you:)

“Feedback.  Feedback.  The number one influencer of student learning?  Feedback.  FEEDBACK?  Great! The single most difficult thing to provide meaningfully to 100-120 students at least 10 times per 6 weeks is the one thing that will make the biggest positive difference on their learning.  Well, that’s just grrrrrrreat!”.  That was my initial reaction to this tweeted research.  And, yes, I said it out loud to my computer.  Then, in classic introvert fashion, I went silent and inward, and began an ongoing journey to discovering and creating “how(s)”.

The community badge process was the first scaled “how” in this quest to augment learning via feedback.  Previous to this year most of my work as a special educator was with individual students or very small groups of students, so it was pretty easy to provide consistent feedback in that context.  This year, I am working in a space in which I am both the classroom teacher and the special education teacher so I had the opportunity to experiment with feedback at scale, if you will. I mean, I feel like 110 students in 4 co-teach classes can be considered scale.  Can’t it?

The logistics:

  • Purchased scrapbook paper and put them up on the wall.  6 sheets per class period.
  • I created the badges using  It is free, easy to use, and creates custom badges.  I just copy pasted each badge that I created to a Google doc, stretched it to fit the 8 x 8 space on the doc, and printed them in color.
  • The initial idea to award 2-3 per class period per 6 weeks was abandoned the 1st 6 weeks for 2 reasons.  One, space limitations.  Two, honestly, the students really only had enough time to demonstrate and develop one soft skill at proficiency in such a short period of time.  Part 2, of two, is that I needed time to get to know them and build enough rapport to authentically assess their soft skill acquisition and proficiency.  Part 3, of two, less was more.
  • Then, we changed the name to Learning Community Badges.  I Just felt like the name needed to reflect the purpose and include a encourage action and involvement.
  • At the end of the 1st and 2nd 6 weeks, I selected the badges and presented them to the classes as part of our “looking back to move forward 6 weeks recap”.  
  • The 3rd 6 weeks (and 4th-6th), in the interest in creating opportunities for student voice, the student voted for their badges.  I created a Google Form for each class that included the 19 soft skills and characteristics that I observed the students across all class periods exhibiting at at least minimal proficiency to choose from.  Although, the student voting process went well and I could see that the students valued being included in the selection process, moving forward, I am limiting the number of soft skills to choose from to 2-3 for 2 reasons. One, we had to have a vote off because of 3 way ties.  Two, I think there is value in the teacher providing a short customized list for each class rather than a general list for all the classes.  Here is a link to Google Form for voting for copying.

Well, back to where we started.  It’s Learning Community Badge Eve!  I can’t forget.  Last 6 weeks, I forgot the badges on my printer at home. So, I tried to be slick and leave if off the agenda on the 1st day of the 4th 6 weeks. However, to my surprise, some students in my 4th and 5th periods remembered and asked about their badges. I confessed my transgression and had to endure being mocked with, “Miss, our student heart is broken”.  Oh the shame! LOL!  But, SILVER LINING...I received some authentic feedback on their feelings regarding my first “how” experiment with scaling consistent meaningful feedback in a manageable way.  Would ya look at that?!  Feedback impacted my learning and motivation! Those researchers do know what they are talking about...most of the time😏

1 comment:

  1. I love the authentic feedback from your students. It is in the little moments that you realize that what are doing is making a big difference in their learning and motivation!