Do You Waste Your Time Giving Feedback?

Feedback is effective for learning. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development basically says you can only get yourself so far and you need someone to push you further. This is what we do as teachers, we help kids get further. This means we can not just accept their initial response or attempt. We need to give them feedback on how to improve to help them take those steps beyond where they got themselves.

Did They Read the Feedback?

FACT: If students do not read your feedback you wasted your time giving it.

WHY do we spend hours marking comments on a kids paper when we know that they throw it in the trash? Is it a badge of honor? A misperception of what our job is?

Why Do We Give Feedback?

I am going to assume we believe that students will learn more if we give them feedback. True and False. It is POSSIBLY true, but the feedback has to meet certain criteria.

  • Criteria #1 – They have to actually read it.
  • Criteria #2 – It needs to specifically indicate what they did well
  • Criteria #3 – It needs to specifically, with specifics, indicate how to improve.
  • Criteria #4 – It needs to be actionable.
If students do not do anything with your feedback, how do you know they learned from it?

Don’t Bother

There are only so many hours in the day. You can not do everything. We already pick and choose what we are and are not able to do with the limited time we have.

End the guilt! You do not need to put a mark on everything a kid does.

You are not a bad teacher if you don’t put your literal or figurative pen on all student work. I ask myself… HOW MUCH learning comes out of the time I am spending on this? A lot or a little? If the answer is a little… I don’t do it. If I spend time instead on things that have a higher rate of return for learning, I win. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Sure, someone will tell you you are not doing your job. How nice of them to define your job as paperwork. Sorry, that is not my job.

ON LOW CRITICAL THINKING TASKS I would encourage you to not bother. In fact, do not bother to the point of not touching it at all. Use a tool such as Quizizz, Formative, Kahoot, Quizalize, or any number of platforms that do the grading for you. For low critical thinking tasks, legitimately the immediate feedback these platforms offer is better for learning. You spending your time marking low critical thinking right/wrong and handing it back the next day has a LOW return on investment of your time in terms of student learning.

If You Bother

“If you bother to give feedback… gosh darn it they should learn from it!”

You’ve decided to give feedback, excellent. How will you MAKE SURE they learn from it? Let this be part of your thought process as you do your lesson plans. Yes, it’s faster in terms of class time to just hand out the feedback and move on, but why did you give the feedback if not for them to learn from it? Take the class time to have them DO SOMETHING with the feedback.

Put It in the Rubric

PART of the learning is responding to feedback. The assignment is not completed until responding to feedback has happened. If they did not respond to the feedback they missed an essential part of the assignment directions.

LITERALLY make “responds to teacher feedback” as part of the directions.

Do not release their score until they respond to your feedback.

The assignment is INCOMPLETE if they have not responded. Do not cave. If you left feedback you will not waste your time; what will they DO with the feedback? You’ll get pushback possibly the first few times you require this, but be consistent. If you leave feedback, they WILL ACT ON IT. Not on the next assignment, on THIS assignment.

Return Without a Score

If you are a Google Classroom user it is essential you Return all work. This is how their score is released. However, if you do not have a score and Return in Google Classroom their “Turned in” submission is reclassified back to “Assigned.” (Sidenote: Please send feedback to Google Classroom that we need a classification for when a teacher returns asking for updates.)

I have left you feedback in the document and in the Private Comments. I am returning this without a score. Please respond to my feedback and resubmit.

I have left you feedback in the document and in the Private Comments. I am returning this without a score. Please respond to my feedback and resubmit.

TIP: Edit the assignment and change the due date. The first due date was to submit for feedback. The updated due date is to resubmit with updates in response to feedback.

PARTIALLY Fill Out the Rubric

One of the criteria in my rubric is “Responds to feedback.” When students initially submit I leave that row of the rubric blank. When they resubmit then I finish filling out the rubric AND UPDATE the assessment for the areas they fell short in since they now hopefully have fixed them.

partially filled out rubric

YES, it is more work for you to assess work twice. But why are we teaching if it is not to do practices that are good for learning? Did you get into teaching to do paperwork? I didn’t think so.

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