As readers may know, my article on feedback in the September edition of Educational Leadership has been one of the most widely read and downloaded articles of the year, according to ASCD data. That’s gratifying feedback!
I blogged about it here, while also providing the longer article I originally provided the editors – they cut my piece in half for publication, as editors are wont to do – and also shared in that earlier post a wonderful follow-up email from a teacher on how to use the contents of the article.
But numerous people have also written saying that while they liked the piece, they wished that I had provided more specific examples of how to design in such feedback, how it all works in practice. So: Voila! Below, find thirteen examples of how teachers have made feedback (as opposed to advice and evaluation) more central to their work with students:

  1. In a welding class, the teacher gives students a performance task. The work is done when it is ‘up to professional welding standards’ for that type of weld. The students receive a description of the standard in writing, with a drawing. But the key is the last phase. “When you think your weld is up to standard, put it on this table, and sign it with the magic marker – signifying it is up to standard.” On the table students will also find some welds up to standard from previous years and some that are not, marked as such. I watched a boy who thought his was ready. But upon getting to the table and closely inspecting all the welds on the table, he went back to his station (having realized his was not up to standard) to work further.
  2. A 6th-grade teacher of writing teaches his students to peer review and self-assess. All papers after that training only go to him for final review after the paper has first gone through the review process: a) Student gives the peer group the draft of the paper. The cover sheet states the purpose and audience of the writing, and the student asks for targeted feedback. b) The peer group reads and does 2 things – notes places where purpose was best achieved and not achieved. They also mark places on the paper where they lost interest – and they explain why orally to the writer. c) The writer decides which feedback (and advice) to take and which not; revises the paper, and attaches to it a self-assessment along with a brief statement as to which feedback they accepted, which feedback they rejected and why – and then hand this all in to the teacher.
  3. In a class of 1st graders, pairs must create a simple map of the whole school, with concentration on a map of a room in the building. The map’s success is assessed, in part, by other students’ ability to use the map to find something, using the map key and compass rose. After each team has had others use their map, students self-assess using a few prompts (with smiley faces or sad faces for each criterion to be circled reflecting their self-assessment as to how helpful and clear their map was.
  4. After a 10-minute summary by the Physics professor of the textbook reading (and focused on student questions emailed in advance), college students in a class of 175 are given a multiple-choice problem related to the content (and focused on a common misconception). Students use their cellphones to vote, graphs of their votes appear on the big screen in real time, and students are asked to discuss their answers in small groups. They are not only asked to re-vote after discussion, but they are asked to vote on their confidence in their initial and final answers. The correct answer is finally revealed, a brief discussion ensues, and the process is repeated with a 2nd problem before a summarizing mini-lecture ends the class. (The teacher has a record of each student’s responses in his computer).
  5. 7th-graders research and discuss the problem of pollution in science class. Then, they prepare for an oral editorial for a mock TV newscast – What Should We Do About Garbage? The speech is videotaped. They review the videotape with a teacher, para-professional, or administrator. They look at two model videos. They self-assess their performance against rubrics. They propose revisions, and give the talk again. The rubric for the talk stresses the thoughtfulness of the self-assessment and the deliberate self-adjustments, not just the quality of the speech. (A similar process was used with 2nd graders in which students had to make an audio recording of a reading of a story. Fluency was the focus: students were told that the recording would be available for younger children not yet able to read.)
  6. Twice a week 9th-grade English students engage in entirely student-run discussions. The teacher graphically records the conversation, using a coding system as to the flow of conversation and in reference to key behaviors (reference to the text, interruption of people speaking, etc.) At the end of 30 minutes, she comments on what she heard and saw, and shares with students the graphical feedback. Two grades are regularly given: group grades and individual grades. (This example comes from my daughter. You can read more about the process and her other work with feedback derived from models in her blog here.)
  7. 5th-grade students are given challenging social studies tasks throughout the year. There are three rubrics: one for the quality of the final product and performance, one for the quality of the research, and one for student independence in doing the work. Students score their own work before handing it in against the rubrics. Part of their final grade reflects the accuracy of their self-assessment as compared to peer scores and teacher scores. Here is the gist of the rubric for independence: 1: student completed the task successfully with no help or hints from the teacher. 2: the student needed a minor hint (e.g. a question or indirect reminder) to complete the task. 3: the student needed 2-3 hints/cues/scaffolds to complete the task. 4: the student could only complete the task with significant prompting and cueing by the teacher. 5: Even with significant prompting, the student could not complete the task.
  8. 4th-graders take a math quiz on a computer, immediately find out which answers were correct and which incorrect once the quiz is completed, and work to correct the incorrect answers, using clues provided by the software. The final number of correct answers is reported along with how many clues were needed. Students also learn at what level of difficulty each problem is pegged and where they stand in terms of degree of difficulty generally that they can handle.
  9. Every week in art class, middle school students have their most recent work critiqued by a team of other students in terms of criteria and purpose that the artist has put forward for the review. (The process used is a modification of the process used at the Rhode Island School of Design).
  10. At the half-time of every soccer game, the coach asks the players: What’s working for us? What’s not working for us? What’s working for the other team? Players only answer the questions, and players propose the advice that follows form the feedback on what to work on in the 2nd half. The same questions are re-asked and discussed the next day in practice in the post-mortem of the game, with the coach asking players to re-create successes and failures in walk-thru simulations.
  11. For each paper in a 4th grade class, the teacher places samples of work on past papers (same genre or prompt but different topics) onto a big archery target. The exemplars are placed in terms of to what extent they ‘hit the target’ for the assignment. The teacher places the papers in the proper place, then asks students in groups to study the samples and to be prepared to explain why each paper was placed on the target where it was. Then when their own papers are finished, they must post it where they think it best belongs on the target. 2 students provide feedback on this self-assessment by either placing a check mark or an arrow (the direction of the arrow signaling whether the paper should be placed closer to the bulls-eye or further away from it).
  12. For the past three years all 8th graders in a district have spent the last week of school working in teams in a simulation of the UN Development Grant funding process. Teams represent countries trying to convince a panel (adult judges brought in and trained for the work by project coordinators) to fund their ideas. Students get feedback from other students during the week; look at models and non-models of past presentations; teachers merely observe unless their is a pressing need to intervene. The judges give detailed feedback against rubrics for the quality of the presentation and ideas. The winning country gets to Skype with staff from the White House and the UN. (Though no final letter grade is given for the work, the students work with enormous energy and focus, in the last week of school. I can vouch for it: I have been a judge twice and an observer of the work in progress each year. Contact Mark Wise in West Windsor – Plainsboro Schools of NJ for further information.)
  13. Every Friday, teachers collect index cards in response to two questions they pose to their 6th graders: What worked for you this week? What didn’t work for you this week (and why)?  Teachers report back to students on Monday, with a summary of adjustments that the teachers might be making, based on the feedback.

Readers: please place your own examples in the comments. This will thereby become a very useful page for educators everywhere.
Oh – and, of course, feedback is welcome!


10 Responses

  1. Thank you and congratulations on being so widely read! This will be a great article to suggest to clients. They are always looking for suggestions.

  2. When working with third grade students, I would have them periodically “rip out” all the responses from their reading notebook. They would sort their responses (along with that of their classmates) along a giant continuum that I put on the floor with masking tape. The continuum ranged from “inferential with support” to “just the facts.” Students would have to examine other pieces of work along the continuum and place their piece in the appropriate places. We would take photos of the continuum so they could see their work change over time.

  3. I wrote a whole post on Problem Solving procedure where feedback is continually given:
    Poetry: The objective is to analyze and revise a poem for meaning tools. Students put post-it notes on their favorite draft poems then pass the book of drafts to a classmate. Students read a poem from the drafts that have been marked for feedback. On a post-it, they complete the sentence “What I think you’re saying is…”. They note the most important/powerful line of the poem. They finish the sentence “One thing I don’t understand is…” The post-it is folded over so that the next reviewer is not influenced by the previous comments.
    Books are passed to 4-5 people and then returned to the author. The author can find patterns in the feedback, use some of the feedback, and choose to disregard some of the feedback.

  4. Great ideas above – thank you.
    The following idea I got from Dylan Wiliam. I love comment-only marking whereby students are handed back papers with comments only. They then look at the comments given, which are focused on specifics, and determine where they think they fall on the rubric. Only then are they given a grade (if it’s a summative mark) or not if this is being used as a formative revision strategy. Either way, it really focuses students on the feedback as opposed to the mark.
    I also like scored discussions where the teacher is not allowed to comment, only track student comments until the end of the discussion where the teacher debriefs with the class.

  5. I am struck by the first example involving the welding project. D. Royce Saddler has raise the issue in writings and on a video on the problem of transfer from teacher feed back on quality to student/s ability to to judge the quality of their own work. While the issue is complex, Saddler (and others of course), has argued that in important ways the teacher feedback without a mechanism tor transfer to student (both self and peer) oriented feedback is damaging to learning in the long run. You can find the video here. Unfortunately Sadler’s lecture doesn’t start until about 20 minutes in and I have’t found a way to fast forward.

  6. Hi there
    If you have access to technology, use
    PeerWise I teach high school students and this resource has been another tool in my assessment tool kit.
    Students use PeerWise to create a question (multiple choice), explain the rationale for the question.and then answer and discuss questions created by students. I require students to create four to six questions after each unit of instruction and assignment activities. The students are required to answer all questions created by other students, as well as rank for difficulty and review the answer explanation for the correct answer. I monitor the questions through an instructor admin login.for questioning levels of understanding, student ranking of questions, and ranking questions that probe the instructional goals for mastery. Question analysis is an added plus … especially with many of the Common Core standards and EOC, ACT and SAT tests. I often glean areas for remediation and re-teaching from the quality of questions. One obstacle encounter during the initial phase of training students to contribute reliable questions was quickly overcome through the ranking feature of the program and the students self and peer critiques. The quality and depth of questions has improved as students compete to see who can create better questions. This site has also proven to be a very good study guide for traditional testing. From time to time, I will submit a question about the question in the remarks section just to keep the students focused and let them know the participation grade is not for completion but for quality.

  7. I love the concept of peer editing, when properly used. Unfortunately I am seeing it being used as means that the teachers do not have to edit it…therefore they have become out of touch with their students “mastery” of the skill being measured. I am also seeing students that do not like one another be especially critical and even mean in such peer editing making this counterproductive to the students valuable time in class and at home while working on paper.
    I am also having a very hard time with “student led teaching”. While discovery groups are great for hands on and allowing students to see others creative thoughts and ideas and learn from one another. Again, I am seeing this used by teachers as a break from teaching and providing too much authority and responsibility on the “lead students”. You are also leaving this wide open to interpretation to the lead student who could very well be teaching incorrectly or inserting assumptions or opinions therefore leading other students astray from the skill being taught. Student led teaching also removes the variable of students with special needs, learning disabilities, 504’s, and IEP’s…. these are sensitive issue that are kept private. During student led teaching, students are not aware of others students instructional needs thus leaving this student in the dust with the skill being taught. Since the teacher is not involved with student led teaching, they are unaware and again disconnected from all of their students.
    Neither of these new & improved teaching strategies ensure “individualized learning” and are very dangerous!

    • Shelley, these are all very important points. Peer feedback and peer review only works if students are well-trained and supervised. (Some teachers make the quality of the peer feedback part of the grade!). We do NOT want the blind leading the blind. But I have seen many instance of well trained students giving accurate and helpful feedback, especially in the arts at all grades.

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