Walter Duncan is a 15-year veteran K-12 teacher. His students were ranked in the top 15% of all Massachusetts Public School students on MCAS ELA in 2012. He has deep experience getting the best out of his kids in inner-city school districts such as Detroit, Washington DC, and Boston. Additionally he is the co-founder of Design By Educators the makers of the Quick Key Mobile app, a social impact company that seeks to empower teachers to more effectively close the achievement gap. The free Open Beta version of the Quick Key is available on the Quick Key Homepage.
The Feedback Loop
I love feedback when it is positive, when it is what I want to hear. Who doesn't like to hear "you're a great teacher" or "your students scored exceptionally well on their standardized tests." However, the most powerful feedback is that which is constructive and corrective. The problem is, I find myself being defensive when hearing corrective feedback. My ego gets in the way. When my admin says, "great class Walter, but you need to improve your paperwork and data tracking", I respond from a defensive posture, thinking to myself "you could not manage this classroom, how can you tell me anything." This is the wrong way to handle corrective feedback, yet it is the knee jerk reaction that I, and so many other adults, have. And if we as adults struggle with this, imagine how our kids feel.
As I think about it I notice a pattern, when I was in the classroom I would focus on each area of student work that needed correction, explicitly. I would take the time to explain why something needed to be improved and how to improve it. But I would give much less attention the student's success, never focusing enough on how and why they were successful at something. It is no wonder that they get defensive, if I am giving the lion's share of the attention to their shortcomings. There is as much to learn from how something was done correctly as there is to learn from something done incorrectly. As teachers we need to balance our focus on both, this is not a call to praise when a student meets basic expectations, but a call to instruct from what was done excellently as well as what was done poorly.
This is on my mind as my formative assessment app Quick Key Mobile, a mobile scanner has just released updates and new features. We make it our central focus, to hear all feedback, take it to heart and incorporate it into our app. We believe giving teachers a full voice in everything we do helps us make a tool that gives teachers the story of their day's lesson in the form of easy to access data, and allows them to give that feedback to their students.