How can we use feedback to support student learning?

I recently came across a recipe for “fesenjoon“, a Persian staple at my family’s Thanksgiving table. As I attempted to recreate this stew that I’d eaten many times, I found myself repeatedly speed-dialing my mom: “Is this the right color?”, “Why do I have so many pots to clean?”, “Does our family recipe use duck or chicken?” My mom listened patiently, asked me a few questions, and helped coach me through cooking my first fesenjoon, giving me valuable feedback on the culinary choices I was making.

A girl and mom cookingWe all need feedback. If you reflect on the past week, you probably received feedback on something you were working on, whether through email, on the phone, or a face-to-face conversation. When thinking about feedback in the design of science learning, a common question is how often do students need feedback?

As Grant Wiggins says in Seven Keys to Effective Feedback, “less teaching plus more feedback is the key to achieving greater learning.”

Feedback allows students to understand their own progress and to consider what is needed to move towards proficiency. In the classroom, feedback doesn’t always have to come from teachers. Sometimes the best feedback comes from peers. This is similar to why I didn’t need to get feedback directly from recipe’s author — I called my mom instead.

I adapted an example activity from the recent publication Critical Features of Instructional Materials Design for Today’s Science Standards to see how students could receive peer and teacher feedback throughout learning:

Grade 1 Example

Similar to this example, when designing science learning, there isn’t a specific number of feedback opportunities to aim for, but rather, it’s important to consider where feedback can support students in meeting the learning objectives for each of the three dimensions. I didn’t call my mom every step of the way in that recipe, but rather I chose to call her when I knew that I needed her input before moving to the next step. In this example, both peer and teacher feedback play a significant role in student learning. Peer feedback happens both through writing and conversation, helping to shape student thinking. Teacher feedback is provided informally to both groups and individual students and in more detail on the student artifact to push student learning forward to meet the learning objective.

Science learning, just like cooking fesenjoon, isn’t as simple as following a recipe. Students will benefit from iterative opportunities to receive and incorporate feedback from their teachers and peers as they begin to learn and practice each new CCC, SEP, and DCI element.

How have you effectively used feedback to support students with meeting three-dimensional learning goals?

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