Transforming education – educate our parents about the power of feedback

We keep talking about transforming education but what do we really mean?  Quite a lot of people I know that mention these words seem to be talking about technology.  Using technology to enhance learning.  We also talk about transforming education by giving students more voice and choice in the activities that are happening in our rooms.  I try to do this in my classroom as much as I can.  But we seem to stop short when we talk about transforming learning when it comes to grades.  Yes, we have to use them for reporting but do we have to use them all the time.  We all quote what they say about feedback.  According to John Hattie & Helen Timperley, if used correctly, “feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement.”  Research also suggests that if grades are given along with feedback, the value of the feedback is diminished by the grades.  Knowing all this why do we focus so much on grades on tests, on essays on presentations?  Once again, yes I know we have to use them for reporting but we control the mark book until that point.  Don’t get me wrong, most students can tell what level they are based on the feedback given to them but he/she is not reduced to a number or a letter.  If we control the mark book, do the students need to see the marks until the end of the unit?  I don’t wait until the report card period, I tend to share the marks at the end of each math unit.  Who knows, maybe I too am sharing marks too early.  What do you do?  Should students see their marks after each assignment?  We keep saying the parents don’t understand.  Parents want to see marks.  Have we thought about trying to educate our parents about the power of ‘good’ feedback?  Let’s start the journey.  It might take a while, but it is worth it.

About jcorbinh

I am a grade 8 teacher who absolutely love teaching language and math and would find it extremely stressful if I had to choose between the two. After 20 years of teaching I am still passionate about my job and enjoy learning new things with and from my students. I try to incorporate new things to motivate and encourage my students and integrating more technology into my lessons has become one of my major goals.
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6 Responses to Transforming education – educate our parents about the power of feedback

  1. Jonathan So says:

    You are so on the right track! Transparency! However, does transparency need to be grades. For me it is more about the comments about how or what they need to do to get better.

    As a parent really all I want to know Is what can I do to help my daughter, but then again maybe that is because I am an educator. However, I think that with talk and transparency parents understand and really see the progress with their children.

    I know that many of my students can tell you what they have learned, what they need to get better and how to do it. That to me is what really is important.

    Great post!

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks Jonathan. Isn’t it sad that some of the parents who want to see grades, know their child is struggling hardly ask how can I help him/her bump these up? Can you give me some feedback? I want to say to them “here you have the grades, how are they working out for you?” Instead you sit in the interview, smile and say this is what we (teacher and parent will do to help Johnny improve. I was so proud of my students when they could clearly explain to their students how they know they are learning and some of the things that they can do to help improve.

      • Jonathan So says:

        Its a culture that I think is worth changing. In life when do we ever look at grades again (besides school). We bases success on feedback and job experiences! This is what school should be like too.

  2. Kristi Bishop says:

    I think, without actually saying it, you’ve hit on the key to feedback, JoAnn. It is the transparency of feedback that makes it so transformational. Transparency to students, to parents, to the links to the curriculum, and most importantly to the learning & awareness about learning (metacognition). I love that I get to see you not only say this in a post, but see you live it daily in your classroom…to the benefit of your students and our school community.

  3. Aviva says:

    Jo-Ann, I think you make a great point about educating parents. I think parents really want to understand these different approaches because they are just that — different. But if we talk with them, explain our thinking, share the research, and show this will benefit students, then I think that their response will be different than we might anticipate. And if we hear out their questions and concerns and really dialogue on these important topics, I think that the impact could be huge. I say this too because I’ve seen it work first hand. Like you, I share the marks at the end of the topic/unit, but not before. With good feedback though, kids know their mark, but they know more than that too: they know how to improve!

    Thanks for another great post!

    • jcorbinh says:

      I totally agree Aviva. If we start the conversation, we might be pleasantly surprised. Let’s start sharing the literature. Not the one that is filled with educational jargon so parents have to dig through to get the message but the ones written that the everyday person can understand. Better yet, if you have older kids, make it an assignment. Let them rewrite some of them for a younger or different audience. Whatever steps we make, I do think it is time to start the transformation.

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