At our evening faculty meetings lately, sharing and using feedback has been an important topic. After first exploring what good feedback is and how best to collect it, the next discussion focused on how we deliver feedback to our students and colleagues. At a recent meeting, several faculty shared a challenge they faced and how feedback loops have been helpful in meeting the challenge.
Sarah Kniesler showed the group her methods of sharing comments on student writing in her English classes--focusing on the ways she requires students to reflect and react to her comments. Faculty were interested to hear that Kniesler does not show a grade on an assignment until after a student demonstrates understanding and reflection on her feedback, in order to help her students focus on means to improve their work, rather than fixating on a grade. Science teacher Tamar Cunha shared a number of ways she uses Google Forms to collect feedback from students on the ways they have prepared for tests, and how they react to different projects and assessments she uses. This self-reflection has been useful to her as she develops her course content and to her students as they react and prepare for what is presented to them.
Coaches Kelly Walker & Sasha Sickel shared an exercise they did with their JV field hockey team to use individual peer-to-peer feedback to focus the group on teamwork and shared goals, improving group dynamics. The result was a more satisfying team experience and more success on the field. Varsity field hockey coach Merrie-Beth Cleary also shared her annual process of asking her field hockey players to reflect on the qualities of a great captain in advance of voting for team captains. Using the student-athletes comments about leadership allowed her to build common ground as to the qualities the team required in a captain and helped the students, nominated or not, understand how and where they needed to grow in order to meet those requirements.
History teacher Roxie Bratton shared a way that he encourages reflection and gives feedback to his advisees. His “Tabor Story” organizer is designed to have advisees recognize and measure their personal growth. Bratton maintains that healthy change and growth help adolescents build habits that strengthen their character, their resilience, and ultimately, their life experience. He emphasized how critical it is for the students to do the work to uncover important feedback loops for themselves.
The faculty enjoy sharing their expertise with each other and learning how different disciplines approach similar teaching challenges. Tricia Smith, Art, closed the meeting sharing the process of student-centered artistic critique, which is usually done with the full class with important ground rules agreed to in advance. In art, students critique each other and learn what is quality feedback and what is not helpful. They are invited to take from the critique whatever is helpful to them as artists and leave the rest on the table. As they finetune their ability to share with each other what they like and where they see lost opportunity, they begin to trust each other and grow in their own ability to communicate clearly, listen carefully, and see possibilities in their own work. Faculty were interested in this group process and saw ways to incorporate it into their disciplines, as helping students to be skilled at giving feedback to others ultimately makes them more skilled at self-evaluation. Good feedback processes and practice helps our students take ownership of their learning.
Just as they demand from their students, Tabor faculty are engaged in being the best teachers, coaches, houseparents, advisors, and colleagues they can be. They are always working to improve their craft and their students’ experience, exhibiting life-long learning and self-reflection along the way.