Surrounded by Feedback

This past week I had the chance to get into a 5th grade classroom and a 7th grade classroom to work with some students on our iLEARN Communities.  Dan and I are working to bring the PLC (professional learning community) structure to the student level.  We want our students working to Lead, Engage, Assess, Reflect, and Network (LEARN).  As part of this process we approached the two grade levels a bit differently to initiate the process.  What was most interesting to note after reflecting on these two sessions were the similarities and differences.  The most important of which, is the fact that both groups identified “feedback” as one of the most important ideas to be successful within this process.  

Our approach with the 7th grade students was to start with a discussion around “How the Brain Works” and getting them to think about collaboration as an important concept for success.  As we introduced this group to the iLEARN Communities concept, they independently brought up the importance of feedback in all aspects of their learning.  This was exciting for a number of reasons.  For students to realize that feedback plays a role in all aspects of their learning was very powerful because it couldn’t be more true.  In fact, we had an article to share with them all about the importance of feedback.  It was exciting that they were already leading themselves down this path before we led them there.  

The 5th grade group also started leading themselves down the path we had hoped they’d follow.  We started with this group using a different strategy.  They’re deep into their Exhibition of Learning (EOL), the culminating piece of their years in the PYP.  Instead of starting with brain research we decided to try to unify the iLEARN Communities work with their EOL.  After discussing with a small group of 5th graders I was excited to hear them using the word feedback so frequently.  I asked them why they thought feedback was so important, or at least why they kept bringing it up.  I’m paraphrasing but essentially they said, “feedback helps us grow and get better.”  Talk about exciting, these kids were begging for feedback and couldn’t get enough!

I guess feedback is on my mind even more than usual because we’re heading toward the end of another school year.  We’ve begun scheduling end of the year conversations with teachers, a process that includes giving and receiving feedback for all parties.  I’ll be seeking feedback from teachers about the supervision process and perhaps more importantly I’ll ask for feedback on my feedback.  As a part of this process I’ll also be drawing together a year’s worth of feedback into one conversation with an aim toward planning for future success.  It’s an exciting time for me, I believe that the process of reflecting and celebrating growth is hugely beneficial to the learning process.  As the lead learners in this (or any) school, it’s imperative for us as educators to go through the same process we want our kids to go through.

Our students are on the way, they’re thirsting for feedback and see it as extremely valuable.  I know that teachers are, literally, begging for more feedback to help them grow and improve.  It is my goal to provide these opportunities for feedback to our teachers as frequently as possible.  I believe that as an admin team we did an acceptable job of providing feedback this year BUT I see a lot of room for improvement.  I’d like to ask a question, and I’ll ask the same question to those teachers I meet with at the end of the year…what can you do to improve the feedback process with your students?  

Answering this question honestly and implementing those changes will, guaranteed, improve the level of success in any classroom.