Set Time Limits
Feedback sessions can be awkward, for both the student whose work is being critiqued as well as the student responsible for the critique. Setting clear time limits helps to ease the stress of the experience; for students who are new to the feedback process, consider starting with very short sessions, maybe two minutes at a time. A short time span means that students have to be concise in their communication, and prioritize the most important feedback to share. Likewise, if a student shares information about their project prior to receiving feedback, a time limit will require more thoughtful presentation. As students get more comfortable with the process, you can expand time limits to allow for more detailed collaboration.
Not all feedback has to take place face-to-face. The classic example of Ron Berger’s video, Austin’s Butterfly, shows students sharing their thoughts on Austin’s scientific art project, and as you’ll see, Austin is nowhere to be found in the video.
At the secondary level, consider sharing work with students from other sections of the same course; at the primary level, look for opportunities to share work with students in another grade level class. This type of distance also allows for work and feedback to be conducted anonymously, which may allow for more candid thinking than might otherwise happen face-to-face.
Speaking of anonymity, sticky notes offer an excellent medium to deliver feedback that can be clustered, color-coded, or quantified without identifying the authors. Whether virtual or analogue, sticky notes require students to be concise in their thinking. Small notes are also easy to organize and synthesize when looking for areas to address during revision.
Provide Statement Starters
It takes time to learn the language of valuable feedback, and statement starters can help provide scaffolds for students who are finding their way. Consider sharing a handful of statement starters with your students to choose from during their feedback sessions.
- “One thing that I like is…”
- “One thing that could be better is…”
- “What if you…”
- “Maybe you could…”
- “One thing that I would change is…”
- “Have you considered…”
- “One opportunity might be to…”
Set Expectations for Balanced Feedback
In order for feedback to have value, it’s important that students find the process encouraging and the information actionable. If students receive only rave reviews on their work, they may be elated, but they won’t have a pathway for growth. On the flip side, if they encounter a deluge of negativity or criticism, they may simply ignore it or shut down. Below are several formats for providing balanced feedback. Consider setting output expectations when using any of these, e.g., “Provide one Rose, one Thorn, and one Bud for each project that you review.”
- Rose (positive), Thorn (negative), Bud (opportunity)
- A Glow (positive) and a Grow (suggestion)
- A Star (positive) and a Wish (opportunity)
- Impress (positive) and Address (area for improvement)
- Impress (positive), Press (Question), and Address (area for improvement)
- Thinking Hats
Encourage Student Voice and Choice
We tend to focus a lot on the feedback process, and not so much on revision. However, impactful revisions are by no means a given. It’s important for students to understand the nuance of engaging with feedback–not every suggestion should be (or probably could be) followed, and so fostering thoughtful voice and choice can empower students to move from mechanical revision to more discerning. Like the other advice in this post, expectations are key; if students will be in charge of selecting which feedback to address, then set the expectation that students reflect on, and subsequently, defend their decision-making. For primary students, consider asking students to choose a specific number of suggestions to address during the revision process.