Tips and Tricks for Providing Formative Feedback in Your Digital Classroom

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by Randy Fairfield, 1/8/18

Providing quick and meaningful feedback is one of the most important strategies teachers can leverage to propel student learning. One of the most powerful examples of the role that constructive criticism can play as a feedback tool in improving student outcomes can be seen here in “Austin’s Butterfly.”

It’s easy to be enamored by the transformation of the butterfly, but think for just a moment about how Ron Berger used the example of Austin’s Butterfly to build a classroom culture of learning, based on the giving and receiving of critique. Students must be in a place where they truly understand what it means to have a growth mindset towards failure before they are ready to receive and grow from formative feedback—yet far too often, we as educators are quick to apply the red pen without doing the necessary work of framing the way students receive our feedback.

Another fantastic video for helping students understand what a growth mindset looks like is Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap video. If you’re feeling like your feedback is falling on deaf ears, hit the reset button and show these videos to your students at the start of next semester!

But you might be wondering—what are some effective twenty-first century formative feedback strategies that do not involve butterflies and monster traps? I’m glad you asked! If you are fortunate enough to work in a school that has adopted the G Suite for Education and Hapara, here are some ways you can provide students with helpful and timely feedback:

Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets Comments:
You may already know that you can highlight and comment on learners’ work in Docs, Slides and Sheets, but did you know that students will get an email notification if you type the “+” button in the comments and add the student’s email address? This is a great way to make sure your students receive your feedback in a timely manner.

Suggesting Mode:
Sometimes a comment is useful for giving students feedback that is just vague enough that they need to figure out their mistake for themselves. But, when that kind of feedback is not enough Suggesting Mode allows you to explicitly show your students what they ought to do to move forward.

Video Feedback
With the Screencastify Chrome Extension, teachers can quickly and easily take a video of what their screens look like and include a voice-over as they review student work. Once the teacher is done recording, the video goes straight to Google Drive, and the teacher can quickly share the feedback with the student by adding a direct link to the video as a comment inside the Doc, Slide or Sheet the teacher is reviewing.

Hapara Dashboard
While Dashboard itself is not a feedback tool, it is incredibly helpful in providing teachers with a quick and easy way to access students’ files in Google Drive. Instead of spending time looking for files, teachers can spend their time giving students meaningful feedback on their work!

Hapara Highlights
Highlights provides similar visibility into student work and can be used to see what browser tabs students currently have open. If a student or group of students are working in Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets, the teacher can jump into the mix and provide real-time feedback using some of the methods shown above!

Highlights also has its own feedback tools built in and enables teachers to send messages to students that appear right in their Chrome browsers. Whether you notice a student is struggling, off task, or you just want to offer some encouragement, Highlights messages can be used to send in the moment feedback that students can incorporate into their learning.

Want to learn more about providing timely, effective digital feedback? Sign up for my live webinar next Tuesday (1/16/18) at 4:00 PM PST / 7:00 PM EST!

Randy Fairfield, MEd and MBA, is a teacher and consultant in the Richland School District in Eastern Washington. He is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer, Edmodo Certified Trainer and Hapara Champion Trainer and Consultant.

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