We’ve all seen, heard, or been a part of an ineffective learning cycle. A stack of students’ papers that were set to the wayside for days, weeks, or even longer are dusted off, possibly marked, returned en masse, and then filed away with nary a word or second glance. By the time students had a chance to review any feedback from the teacher (if any was offered), the learning window had already closed. Time, effort, and any potential for growth were long forgotten, much like the oppressive stack of papers that had been collecting dust. Hopefully, this cycle of learning, or lack thereof has ceased and been replaced with a much more active rapport that engages students by providing feedback throughout the learning process and encouraging reflection along the way as well.
There is little to be gained from only offering feedback at the completion of an assignment or task. To truly be effective, feedback must be sprinkled throughout the entire learning process. Checkpoints and formative assessments are perfect opportunities for offering feedback and ensuring students are deepening their understanding of material and concepts. Feedback can come in a variety of forms. Some assignments and activities may lend themselves to a simple verbal exchange, others may be more suited to a written exchange, and still others may simply garner nonverbal cues. Whatever the case, feedback must be clearly communicated, and students should have an understanding of how to put any directional feedback into action.
When students are working on projects and assignments online, there is often a built-in ability to offer real-time feedback. When comments can be made within the learning process, students are able to make changes and adjustments before an assignment’s completion and avoid feeling overwhelmed with the task of revamping what they felt was already a finished product. The work-in-progress process becomes more collaborative in nature, and students are more likely to see feedback as a positive exchange to further their learning rather than a barrage of final comments as their work is completed. While online programs make this much easier, they are not the only way to share feedback before students hit an endpoint. Whole class and individual checkpoints where works-in-progress are reviewed and/or discussed are also very effective. It’s the timeliness of the turnaround and the quality of the feedback that make the biggest difference.
If students aren’t given time and direction for processing feedback and reflecting on their learning, then they are being shortchanged. Through reflection, students gain a better understanding of themselves as learners. Not only does reflection within the learning process help students positively navigate through any changes or redirection that may be required, but it also gives them insight on moving forward in new endeavors. Teach Thought offers a variety of strategies to help students retain what has been taught. When teachers model and incorporate these strategies, students can begin to ingrain the processes and intuitively begin to think differently about how they approach learning.
One key time to have students reflect is throughout the feedback process. How can they take the feedback given and utilize it in a way that positively impacts their learning? Sometimes this reflection process may show them that more clarification or direction is needed before moving forward. As students reflect on feedback and begin to see it as a whole over the course of different assignments and/or even different courses, they can begin to understand themselves better as learners. This can lead to the insight that allows them to tackle new challenges with prior feedback already in mind.
Feedback and reflection are the dynamic duo of mastery and student growth. The time spent providing feedback and offering students the opportunity and tools to reflect equates to time gained when students possess the ability to tackle concepts and challenges with a better understanding of themselves as learners. When students are informed and self-aware during the learning process, they are able to reach heightened levels of understanding and growth.