Tightening the Feedback Cycle

Current educational research tells us that one of the most effective things we can do to help our students learn better is to tighten up the feedback cycle, giving them faster and more timely comment and critique on their work. This session will provide you with ideas, techniques and tools for improving student progress by providing better, faster and more effective feedback.
This is really a taster session. It will skip through a range of options for providing feedback to students.  But first...

Why give feedback to students?

Before we look at some tech tools you might use to tighten up the feedback cycle with students, we should remind ourselves of why we want to do it in the first place.  Giving feedback to students is for one main reason...To improve student learning. And good feedback helps improve student learning.

Think about a situation where you received good feedback. What did that good feedback look like? What characteristics did it have?

Remember... there is no point having tools with which to offer feedback, if that feedback is not effective!

There is lots of great research by John Hattie into effective feedback... read some of it here from Google Scholar.


Good feedback has an average effect size of 0.79, twice the average effect of all other schooling effects. 
It is one of the top 10 influences on achievement.

To read: The Power of Feedback by John Hattie and Helen Timperley

PS: About the use of technology when you consider the SAMR model... (see page 19!)

Austin's Butterfly

If you've never seen this video, it's definitely worth seeing. Great example of the feedback cycle being modelled.

But before you give your feedback your students...

Why not get them to give some feedback to themselves? Here are a few practical self-reflection tools that you should teach students to use so they can cast a critical eye over their writing before they even ask for your feedback.
  • Spelling and Grammar check - It's obvious but often overlooked. If their text has squiggly red underlines under words, they need attention. Teach students to check these!
  • Draftback - a Chrome extension for replaying the creation of a document. Students can often learn a lot from the simple act of observing their own writing process. Which paragraphs caused the most trouble? Which sentences did I struggle over? Which sections were easier to write? Why?  (Here's an example)
  • TTS with Google Drive - Another free text to Speech tool. This one requires a few more steps to load and prepare the Doc for reading, but the voice quality is higher and it reads more smoothly.  (Try it here)
  • SAS Writing Reviser - a Docs Add On which offers detailed analysis of the writing. It can identify different types of sentence structures, suggest better alternative sentences, prompt students to rethink what they have written, and provide data about their writing style. Sometimes just having these items pointed out in a clear and non-threatening way can be enough to get students to 
    think more carefully about their writing.

Now it's your turn...Practical Activity

To play with these tools you'll need to have a document on which to leave comments. 
Start with this one (Clicking the link below will prompt you to make a copy in your own Drive)

Google Docs Comments 

All Google Documents (Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings) all have a built in commenting system. This built-in commenting tool goes beyond just being able to leave comments on a student's work; It enable conversations within the document between teacher and student that can go back and forth until someone decided that the issue is resolved. 

Resolved comments are hidden from view but can be recalled at any time.  For comments to be effective, they need to given early enough that students can act upon them. The advantage of your students using Google Docs is that the teacher can have access to the work during the entire lifecycle of the work. Give feedback early and often.


Google Docs Suggesting Mode

Adding comments is fine, but what about if you want to actually type in a student's document to make suggestions or changes? While you can certainly do that (if you have editing rights) it would be helpful if the student could see the changes you've made, or better yet, to decide whether they want to accept or reject those changes. This idea of tracking changes within a document can be done using Suggesting Mode.

As the teacher, switch to Suggesting mode using the Editing/Suggesting/Viewing button.

With suggesting mode turned on, any changes you make to the body of the document will be highlighted clearly, and the student will later have the option of accepting or rejecting your suggestions.

Here's a video to show you how Suggesting Mode works.

Google Support page on Comments in Docs - https://support.google.com/docs/answer/65129?hl=en

Talk and Comment Extension

Want to leave voice feedback for your kids? Install the Talk and Comment extension from the Chrome Web Store and you will be able to easily do just that! Just click the small icon that appears on the right of the screen, record your message (and be a bit patient with it as it take a moment to process) then paste the link into the standard comment box.  You can get the extension here.

Read&Write
An extension from Texthelp that features a great suite of accessbility, feedback and markup tools. Useful for students to self-check their work. With a built-in text and image dictionary, text to speech, search, translation, highlighting, and more, Texthelp gives lots of options for both teacher and student to tighten up the feedback cycle.

Find out more at www.texthelp.com

Screencasting
Another useful technique for giving feedback is to use screencast tools to record yourself as you talk through suggestions for the student work, then share the screencast video with the student. This is particular useful for non-text-based work, or anything where written comments are less useful.

If you use either Screencastify or TechSmith Snagit for Chrome, you have a free, easy to use tool that saves directly to Drive, so you can then share it easily with the student.

Feedback via a Rubric using Orange Slice

If you use rubrics to provide feedback to students there are some excellent tools for managing rubrics
Some rubric examples:

You can run this add on to create a rubric from scratch, or use an existing rubric. Open a Google Doc and run the Orange Slice Add On to begin the process and follow the steps.


There are supporting videos to explain how it works, but once set up, it's very simple.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom offers an easy to use tool for creating workflow between student and teacher. Students can Turn In work at any point before the due date and get teacher feedback, and the teacher can Return the work to the student. This back and forth exchange can take place as many times as necessary and really streamlines the feedback cycle.

Teachers have full visibility and access to student work within Classroom at all times, and can use the standard Google Docs commenting features mentioned above, but through Classroom every transfer of work between student and teacher has an opportunity to create dialog about the work. These conversations about the work are private between teacher and student. Google Classroom really encourages and speeds up the feedback cycle.

For iPads
If you teach in an iPad environment you can still take advantage of the built in commenting features in Google Docs. The threaded commenting still works exactly like it does on a conventional computer.

However, you can also use the Explain Everything app to give really powerful feedback. A students creates their document in Docs as usual, then shares it with the teacher. The teacher opens the Doc and uses the Open In button to send it to Explain Everything. This creates a capture of the screen and lets the teacher annotate the file and give recorded feedback, then save that recording directly back to Drive. If you drop it straight into a folder shared with the student, they can open it to get the feedback.

It's useful to know that you can send the recording to Drive either as a video file, or as a raw Explain Everything file. Saving as a video can be time consuming as it needs to render. Saving as an Explain Everything file is really quick, and as long as the student also has Explain Everything on their iPad, they can open the feedback and view it perfectly.


If you have a moment I'd really appreciate your feedback on this session. Thanks!