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Feedback in the Innovation Academy: Part I

Providing descriptive feedback

The Research

Ongoing feedback is an integral part of the culture of the Innovation Academy (IA). The goal of feedback in the IA is always to improve student learning and we are continuously researching and experimenting with the best methods of giving feedback. Our philosophy is based heavily on the work of John Hattie, Ron Berger and Grant Wiggins. We believe, along with Hattie and Timperley (2007), that "feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement." As a result, we give students ample opportunities to take our feedback and continue to iterate and improve on their work.

While Hattie's study is one of the most recent, many studies have demonstrated the impact of feedback on performance. Source: http://www.winginstitute.org/Graphs/Mindmap/Does-Feedback-Improve-Performance/

We also utilize models, critique, and descriptive feedback, as described by Ron Berger in Leaders of Their Own Learning, to improve student performance. In the process, we have learned that giving feedback is a vital skill that needs to be explicitly taught and practiced before it becomes a part of the culture.

Finally, following the work of Grant Wiggins, we aim to provide feedback that is "goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing, and consistent." With this in mind, we have designed a program that values the quality of student work over the quantity, so that students have ample time to utilize the feedback they receive over the course of multiple iterations.

Source: http://www.slideshare.net/clonghb/better-feedback

How: Using Google Sheets to Provide Descriptive Feedback

The Growth Chart

The core of our feedback in the Innovation Academy (IA) is based on the Growth Chart, which was developed by the IA and has gone through multiple iterations. Every student in the IA has access to his or her Growth Chart at all times to ensure that our feedback is transparent, ongoing and consistent. The Growth Chart was developed using Google Sheets and you will notice that there is a tab for each of the four courses (English, Business, Media, Independent Project) that students take in the IA.

Course-Level Feedback

Utilizing the Growth Chart students are able to see where they stand in each subject at any time. We use the colors green (exceeding expectations), yellow (meeting expectations) and red (approaching expectations) to provide students with a quick visual of their progress to date. These colors are just the start, as we meet with each student numerous times over the course of the semester to give them feedback. The Growth Chart also provides a visual over the course of the semester so students can keep track of their progress.

The Growth Chart has a tab for each of the courses that comprise the Innovation Academy.

Subject-Level Feedback

We also create a Google Sheet for each subject (English, Business, Media, Independent Project) that allows students to receive feedback for individual tasks that build up to the final project. In the example below from English, you can see that the feedback matches the standards from the Growth Chart so that the comments given to students are specific as possible. The idea behind using Google Sheets is that it allows comments from the teacher, peers and even allows students to reflect on their own work.

An example of feedback at the subject level. This is an example of feedback given on a blog post.

Teacher Feedback

The most important piece of this system is that it allows us to provide feedback to students quickly and with a focus on learning. As well, this feedback provides the basis for conversations with students during our weekly check-ins.

Peer to Peer Feedback

With Google Sheets students are able to provide feedback to their peers in the same manner as teacher feedback. This allows students to develop their skills of collaboration, communication, and critical analysis. Giving feedback is not an easy task, even for adults, but research shows that people "thrive on feedback."

One way that students provide peer to peer feedback is through a Google Survey that is filled out during student presentations. In this way, students can provide a simple descriptor (Below, Meeting or Exceeding Expectations) as well as a comment to their peers which can be seen immediately.

A Google Survey can be used to allow students to quickly give each other feedback during a presentation.
A student view of the Google Survey.

Another way we provide opportunities for peer to peer feedback is by pairing students up to receive feedback from a partner that is more detailed and is accompanied by a deeper peer to peer conversation than a whole class feedback activity would allow for.

An example of peer to peer feedback using Google Sheets.
Please see Part II: Creating a Culture of Feedback