Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A New Shift: Why I Give Feedback Before Grades

Today is our seventh snow day, and I thought I would take a few minutes to blog about a new practice that I have been doing this semester. I was first inspired by this post from Lisa Bejarano which led me to this video and blog post from Ashli Black. Furthermore, I was having a conversation about this same subject with Megan Heine on Twitter yesterday, so I felt like I needed to blog about it.

After reading through these resources, I felt like I had discovered a new avenue of thinking that I had never considered before. I had always assumed that putting grades was a standard practice. I am so glad that I stumbled upon these two blog posts because it allowed me to go out of the comfort zone. When teachers are evaluated here in Tennessee, one of the categories on the TEAM Rubric is Academic Feedback (both in oral and written form). This is a category with which I have struggled to get above a 3, but the TEAM Rubric is good for teachers to get feedback from evaluators. 

Let me describe the main changes that I have done in my classroom. Then I will describe why I have made these changes. 
  • When I give a quiz, I give feedback, and I circle the questions in which were incorrect. This allows me to be able to give up for when I go back and put on the grade after the fact. I call the students up to my desk one by one so that they can read the feedback. I also try to be meticulous about keeping up with quizzes (to cover myself). After students have read the feedback, I go back and put on the grade. For the classes I teach this semester, I have found that this practice has been helpful for students, and it also makes students more responsible. 
  • Instead of assigning a daily independent practice, I assign a "Spiral Review" assignment, which has problems from previous standards and has about 10-15 problems. Students have a week or so to get this turned in to me. When they turn it into me, I give them feedback and allow them to correct it. Because it is a lot for me to keep up with mentally, I will take it until a certain point in the nine weeks, so I have time to grade it. However, it is a 0 in the grade book until I get it (since we can't put Incompletes in our grade book). That's another issue in itself, though
Why the changes? 
  • The blog posts and videos at the beginning of the post provided a new shift for me. I think that we as a society are in a dangerous paradox about grades and learning. I feel that a lot of times that students are more concerned about grades than learning.  However, if you are learning, your grades are going to reflect that, so it's almost contradictory. Here we want good grades, but we are okay with not learning. That's not acceptable or cool! End of story. I implemented the feedback strategies in hopes to change that mindset of students that it's okay to only worry about the grade. When students see the grade, most students could not care less about the feedback. 
  • I implemented the Sprial Review because I have found that many of my students have issues with retention, even from day to day. That is a problem, especially when math is a building block and our state loves standardized testing. So, it is my hope that the Spiral Review will help with increased retention of important concepts. I also hope that by allowing students to correct these review homework assignments that retention also increases. Another reason I implemented this is because we lost anywhere from 10-15 days each spring semester because of inclement weather since we are in a very rural area that can't handle snow well due to mountainous/curvy/hilly terrain. The only issue I have had with this is getting students to turn in assignments. These assignments only count for 15 percent of a student's grade, while quizzes/tests count as 45 percent. 
How this can improve 
  • I liked Lisa's idea in her blog post (see above) about having students respond to the feedback. However, I am not for sure about implementing this just yet. 
  • I should probably have students who make below a certain score be required to retest. However, I am a believer in personal responsibility, so this is why I do the Request to Retest form instead. I also do not believe in forcing students to retake tests because many students have test anxiety. 
Let me explain the Request to Retest form. I took this from a Google search and then adapted it to my needs. It makes students explain what they made, why they made that grade, and three tangible activities that they can do to improve on the skill. Before a student is allowed to retest, the student, their parent/guardian, and I all have to sign it. Students then have to sign up for an appointment before being allowed to retake. This, once again, puts the responsibility on the student. It also gets the parent involved. 

Here are a few snapshots of the feedback I give. It allows them to see misconceptions, and it allows me to see their misconceptions, which are often basic, minute (yet major) errors. Hope you can read my handwriting here. Enjoy! 


  1. I love this! My students are so grade focused that sometimes it seems like that's all they look at!!!

    1. I think that's a problem that is an interesting paradox in education. Students are so concerned with grades that oftentimes learning takes the back seat. I began my classes this semester with the following question "What do you think is more important? Making a good grade or mastering the standards of the class?" Most students said that it was a blend and that if you master the standards, then your grade will reflect that. It's disheartening that students are so grade focused, but I think that giving the feedback has been helpful as it forces them to worry about the feedback before the grade. This is one practice that I will keep doing! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. This is an area I really need to improve upon. I love your idea of giving them the feedback before the grade. I think I might give this a try on our next quiz. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It's been a little bit more work on my part, but it also makes students read and grow from the feedback. For many students, it has proven to be beneficial. No problem! Please let me know how it goes!!


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