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by Erica Fischer on Nov 16, 2016

#Langchat: New Ways to Give Students Meaningful Feedback

langchat4How can you improve your communication to effectively give meaningful feedback to students?

Last week, #langchat took on the extra important topic of figuring out ways to effectively communicate with students in order to give them meaningful feedback that will help them make improvements in their language learning journey. Participants started by sharing their tips for communicating with students about their progress towards proficiency targets/goal, as well as ways to add variety their feedback delivery system. Contributors went on to discuss routines that can be established to ensure that students get feedback on a daily basis, along with ideas for formatting assessment rubrics to maximize feedback on students’ performances. Finally, langchatters talked through good ways to close the feedback loop while at the same time encouraging students to respond to the feedback they’ve been given. So get ready and dive on in to this week’s summary of the conversation for great tips and tricks about feedback!

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Question 1: How do you communicate with students about their progress towards proficiency targets and other goals?

When using proficiency targets and goals to direct students through a class, communicating about their progress can be tricky if you don’t have a set plan for it. There were lots of tips shared by chatters, and a summative list of their ideas is below (for the full list, visit the tweet archive).

  • Use the ACTFL IPA rubrics for reference as they have the proficiency levels defined with descriptors making giving feedback simpler.
  • Give feedback based on rubrics that were assigned with the given task.
  • Review the objectives (i.e. the “can-dos”) with students on a daily basis to make sure they have the skills/content they need to get there.
  • Make sure to use frequent references and point values so that your rubrics are aligned to proficiency goals from the beginning.
  • Have quick one-on-one conversations with students and follow those up with detailed written notes on how to improve their performance.
  • In between assessments, have students target a specific skill on their individual assignments so that they can make progress towards their personal goals.
  • Have students periodically self-assess using a list of can-do statements/rate themselves on the proficiency-based rubrics.
  • Have goals for each theme, reference them regularly, and do check-ins as to how they are progressing.

@AHSblaz shared a good thought when they pointed out that, “When [students} self-evaluate, they set goals automatically & are harder [on themselves] than I am.” Basically, you have to find a succinct and clear way to share the goals and objectives from the start of each task in order to make sure that students are invested in their progress, and be open to letting them direct the conversation when needs be.

Question 2: How can we add variety to the ways in which we effectively communicate feedback to students?

Students hear a lot of feedback from all of their teachers all day long so in order to make sure that yours sticks, adding variety to the way you deliver it is a great practice to put in to place. There are simple ways to add variety such as using technology options (Google Classroom, emails, texts, comments on blog posts, etc.), or there are the quick and easy paper options (notes on assignments, separate feedback cards, etc.).  Some langchatters were hands-down proponents of using individual conversations with written reminders, and others felt that having a dedicated “feedback station” in your classroom for students to come to you when they are looking for helps is a great way to go.

While some participants felt that variety in the type of response doesn’t matter terribly as long as you are consistently providing students with some sort of feedback, @profe_z made an excellent point when he shared that what he’s found most important of all is, “Dedicating time in class for [students] to take in the feedback (written/spoken/rubric) + fully process + edit.”

Question 3: What routines can we establish to ensure we respond to students’ efforts on a daily basis (with feedback)?

Establishing routines for responding and giving feedback to students on a daily basis is very important so that way, they can make adjustments and improvements immediately instead of continuing with the same incorrect/bad habits for multiple tasks, conversations, etc.

Some ideas for routines that langchatters use (or want to use) in their classrooms included the following:

  • Give class jobs so that you are free at the beginning of class to circulate/provide feedback on previous day’s work with each student.
  • Use a Google Form consistently to track feedback and then email it to individual students after class.
  • Build in time to circulate through the room/listen in on students and communicate one-on-one every class.
  • Consistently use a warm up activity time (in the first 5 minutes of class) for quick check-ins.
  • Do a quick fill-out form for daily evaluation with both positive and constructive feedback so they have something to work on before next class.

Overall, the consensus on this question was that no matter what your preference for type of routine, it’s important to establish one so that students know to expect it and apply it to their work. Like @CoLeeSensei pointed out:

One of the ‘routines’ is their [students] knowing that reflection/feedback will happen! Forgot once & [student] says ‘What – no reflection?’

Question 4: How can we format our assessment rubrics to maximize feedback on students’ performances?

Formatting assessment rubrics doesn’t have to be complicated in order for them to be effective – it can be something as simple as using fewer/heavier hitting words so that it’s easier for students to understand and see the next step. Some chatters thought that using checklists in lieu of formal “rubrics” can also be helpful as it makes the requirements more approachable. Another idea was to simply include super direct instructions with very clearly worded questions, or even just leave a large empty box next to each category to remind yourself to make specific feedback on each of them as you go.

Overall, participants agreed that the more transparent you can make the rubrics, the better for students’ performances. @srtamartino summed that thought up beautifully when she said, “Keep rubric formats simple & always give specific details on how to improve.”

Question 5: How do you close the feedback loop and encourage response to your feedback?

Closing the feedback loop while also encouraging students to respond to your feedback can cause world language teachers pause, but it doesn’t have to! Langchatters shared some great ideas for how to do it effectively including asking students to assess their own work/share their thoughts with you to discuss, giving out a few personal notes per weak with proficiency “tips”, having that built-in station to sit down/open their folder/re-name their proficiency level if needed/go over descriptors, marking papers with a highlighter/considering it a rough draft without a grade until corrected (which means they actually look at the feedback), and several more.

@profepj3 had a great tip when he shared that, “I try to remember the human connection, too–tell the kid in person how they’re doing better & I specifically notice.” Because at the end of the day, the student can’t get better if they aren’t hearing from you and that’s really the whole point of giving feedback in the first place!

Takeaways

This week, #langchat participants joined in the important discussion of how to give students meaningful feedback through effective communication. Langchatters takeaways included things like remembering that it’s important to make the time to provide feedback since students need it to grow/it’s a valuable teaching tool, and knowing that individualized feedback takes time but with creative ideas, it’s possible to incorporate it more into class time itself.

And @PRHSspanish gave everyone a great parting reminder when she shared her takeaway that it’s important to continue giving students frequent feedback because, “Thinking in my own head doesn’t constitute feedback – GOTTA TELL ‘EM! :)”.

Thank You!

Thank you Meredith (@PRHSspanish) for leading this week’s chat with help from Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), and as always, we’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who takes the time to join these discussions every week. We hope that you continue to link up with #langchat as often as you are able – if the weekday chats on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET don’t work for you, try joining the #SaturdaySequel, every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. ET instead!

Our weekly #langchats have gotten busier and busier, so due to space limitations, the summaries always focus on the main themes and takeaways from each week’s conversation. Many tweets have to be omitted but to read the entire conversation from this week, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Have a topic that you’re impatient to discuss?! Send us your ideas for future #langchats!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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