Developing our Ability to Utilize Feedback from Peers in our Classrooms.
George Couros in his book “The Innovator's Mindset” suggests looking outside our field to develop our skills. My inspiration for this Feedback blog posts comes from Robin Barnes in an article she wrote titled “How to Get the Feedback You Need to Succeed.” in the Professional Ski Instructors of America Spring 2017 issue of 32 Degrees.
I have been a ski instructor for over 20 years, it led me to leave my advertising career and pursue teaching in the classroom. My professional organization has played a major role in how I teach in my classroom and I often gain insights from the coaches of PSIA.
The typical feedback article that I have read discusses how to provide effective feedback, Robin choose to write about how to receive feedback to improve performance. This is a flip from my traditional thinking and I wanted to explore how Robin’s article on ski coaching pertained to my classroom instruction.
At Bio-Med Science Academy, an independent STEM + M high school located on the campus of Northeast Ohio Medical University, we attempt to foster a collaborative teaching environment where teachers learn and grow from each other. The tools Robin provided in her article will help any teacher develop their ability to better utilize feedback.
Robin discusses two ways to seek and receive feedback; First Start with yourself, then seek feedback from others.
First start with yourself:
Finding feedback on your own. In the article Robin discusses how as snowsport instructors, we often “soft” assess every run - how well did I ski the run, was I struggling with the terrain? This can be casual, however she suggests experimenting by focusing in on specifics and outcomes.
As a classroom instructor, how often do we take time to deeply reflect on our lessons? I decided to compare the tools Robin suggests and apply them in order to focus my reflections on my classroom instruction.
Below I have adapted Robin's intrinsic feedback tip and applied to the classroom.
Second Seeking Feedback from Others
Robin suggests feedback from others is a fantastic way to grow in our sport, however many of us are not very good at seeking and receiving effective feedback. She suggests you “have a plan and take responsibility.” As a teacher this can be intimidating since our observations are typically evaluative and can be tied to our compensation. With Robin’s tips, I feel I can flip that perception and design quick observations from peers or administration with targeted and effective feedback that will impact my instruction.
Tips from Robin on how to get the most from extrinsic feedback.
The specific tools provided by Robin are going to be game changer for me. They provide the framework to develop ways to seek and obtain feedback. The next step will be to take the time to reflect on my colleague's comments and make improvements to my instructional practices.
It is often said “Teaching is an Art’ - we need to continually evolve and develop our skills as our students, classrooms and technology change. My first videos were intimidating to create and hard to listen to, but with time, I became more comfortable and am able to observe and reflect on my delivery. I know my first few visits from colleagues will be uncomfortable but the knowledge I can gain will allow me to develop my instructional practice.
Moving from Engagement to Empowerment
Point of reference, for the past 3 years, I have taught students introduction to computer applications 2 days a week and programming 2 days a week. Computer Apps and Computer Science is a requirement for all Freshman and Sophomore students at my STEM + M school Bio-Med Science Academy
Why I want to Empower My Students
“Learn how YOU learn best” is a constant refrain in my classroom. I show students online tutorials printed with step by step directions, we find interactive tutorials (codecademy) and we try out Khan Academy interactive tutorials. I intersperse tutorials lessons with design or project challenges. "Can you apply what you just learned?" Students often will show me “a better way” to do something and I have them make a tutorial to share with class. Example student tutorial on image mapping.
By focusing on metacognition, and teaching my students to be reflective learners, to think about how they teach themselves content they are interested in, I believe I empower them and give them the tools they require to be successful 21st century citizens.
My goal for my students, is to make myself “obsolete” to them. My favorite student comment is “Ms. Lang, I need help figuring out…. Oh never mind I figured it out myself!”
I wonder, as a mentor teacher, how do we apply these ideas to other subjects?
How can we empower our students to be self taught lifelong learners?
Do you have any teaching resources that help students to learn how they learn?
A note of thanks
Thanks to George Couros for engaging me in his online #IMMOOC and for empowering me to see the power in blogging about my teaching experiences and to engage in “deep reflection.”
Thanks to the team who worked to update the ISTE standards to include student empowerment
Final thanks to Kent State for my Library and Media Science endorsement which introduced me to the American Association of School Librarians and the Standards for 21st century learners which have heavily influenced my instructional course design.
Couros, George. The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2015.
"ISTE Standards FORSTUDENTS." For Students 2016. International Society for Technology Education, 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
“Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary .
“Standards for the 21st Century Learner.” American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians, 2007, http://www.ala.org/.
A Little Context
I have been working with the KAS students in Taiwan for the past two years. TW Williamson, a language arts teacher at the school, has been teaching blogging to his Freshman Language Arts class. He graciously shared his blogging unit lesson with me. Here is a website and review of our first two years of projects.
I’m in year two of blogging with my students at Bio-Med Science Academy, and I'm working with the same group of students this year, now Sophomores. As Freshman, I had just introduced a bit of blogging with these students, completing three blog posts.
This year, I decided to practice along with my students and have started my own blog. My first post on PBL training can be found here.
Let's Start Commenting!
Being part of George Couros Innovator's Mindset online community #IMMOOC George discussed the importance of commenting on each other's blogs. I was so excited to see my first comments! This spurred me to try commenting with my students.
Here is how I structured my class. Based on an assignment designed by TW Williamson
AGH! I was worried! KAS schools use their blogs extensively, I did not want a comment that corrected grammar or commented negatively or worse yet, commented negatively with horrible spelling and grammar errors showing up on their blogs! Fortunately, we discovered as we went back to “edit our comments” that Mr. Williamson is a pro, his students had their blogs set up to “moderate all comments” so KAS students review comments before allowing to appear on their blogs.
The Apology Email
My email to my KAS co-teacher TW went as follows.
So reviewing some student blog comments, I experienced many emotions, mostly embarrassment and horror. We had a few that are way out of line and the grammar and spelling! You will be receiving a few apology emails from my students.
I reviewed a few more and we have some great comments, but please let your class know. I could have set up my students more and had several in "peer edit" mode vs blog comment mode. The final teachable moment, when students tried to go back and edit or remove a comment they found errors in, they realized they did not have editing rights. Hope this helps with the "think before you post" movement.
Project Based Learning
Key takeaways that I want to start implementing immediately in my classroom
How can I frame my lessons so that students can understand how the skills they are developing will help them beyond their academic career? By reflecting on this idea, I am redesigning my curriculum to share with students our "big idea" project of year vs. waiting until after instruction to "launch" the project.
Sigh, yes rubrics. Typically the bane of any project I create. My opinion of rubrics transformed from a simple checklist to a powerful learning tool that will help students develop their need to know charts and help challenge students to move beyond standard expectations.
While many of these tools were not new to me, what was new was how they were being used, and that provided many "ah ha" moments. I appreciated experiencing the training as "student" living the process as it helped me gain a much deeper understanding of how we learn and how to teach more effectively using projects.