Principal at Golden Secondary School
My last article described our School Goals for this year, and I mentioned that I would talk about Descriptive Feedback in a future article. This is it! Teachers at GSS have been engaged in professional development about the topic of assessment over the past several years. One of the areas we have studied is formative assessment and one major component of this is descriptive feedback.
Traditionally, students receive marks for their work to let them know how they did on a particular assignment. This information is recorded and becomes part of their overall grade at the end of a term or year. This is effective in letting students and parents know what the student has achieved and whether the student has achieved enough to be able to progress to the next grade level.
The purpose of descriptive feedback is to let the students know how they are doing in relation to the learning target, and lets them know how to take the next step to move them towards the target.
This happens while the learning is still going on so that students can strive to improve and do their best. For example, an English teacher may assign a three paragraph story to a class of Grade 8 students. After the pre-writing activities have occurred, the students would prepare a draft of the story. The teacher would read through the stories and provide verbal or written comments that will help the students move forward in their writing. The students would then have a chance to revise their stories based on the feedback. After revisions and editing, the final papers would then be handed in.
This process assists students learn to write more effectively. Descriptive feedback can be given in all subject areas in order to help students move closer towards the learning target.
Teachers provide feedback relative to three questions students ask about their learning:
“Where am I going?”
“How am I going to get there?”
“Where to next?”
Students are encouraged to self-assess as well as peer-assess and provide feedback relative to their learning in addition to the teacher’s descriptive feedback. We have seen promising results with these processes at GSS.
Research has shown that descriptive feedback can have a huge impact on student learning. In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, Hattie (2012) states that “when formative practices [descriptive feedback] are integrated into the minute-to-minute and day-by-day classroom activities of teachers, substantial increases in student achievement – of the order of a 70 to 80 per cent increase in the speed of learning – are possible.”
The critical aspect of descriptive feedback is that it is given during the learning process when the students have a chance to use it and before the student receives marks for their work. Once students receive a mark, it signals the end of their learning. Descriptive feedback will continue to be a focus at GSS this year so that students have the best opportunities to improve their learning.
If you are interested in reading our latest newsletter, please visit our website and look under the ‘Newsletters’ tab at www.sd6bc.ca/gss. You will find lots of information and pictures of activities at GSS.