AUSTIN'S BUTTERFLY: A LOOK AT USING AUTHENTIC FEEDBACK IN THIRD GRADE

WHAT IS IT? WHY DID WE DO IT?

We believe that feedback is an essential part of learning experiences for children.  It helps a child understand what they're learning and also gives clear guidance on how to improve.  We're interested in children being able to both give and receive feedback throughout the year and across the curriculum.   We wanted to streamline the feedback process and language so we might see it being more readily used and transferred.

HOW DID WE DO IT? THESE WERE THE BASIC STEPS WE TOOK:

  • Present children with a choice of realistic photographs and had them select a picture to biologically illustrate.

We asked the student to work silently and in a limited time frame in order to zoom in their focus.

We asked the student to work silently and in a limited time frame in order to zoom in their focus.

  • Gather the group together and asked them collectively what they knew about feedback.
  • Group them in random cohorts of four with the instruction to take turns providing feedback on how to make the illustration more realistic.

Children worked in groups to give initial feedback

Children worked in groups to give initial feedback

Complete a second draft trying to incorporate one piece of feedback they had received.

Making a second sketch and using group feedback.

Making a second sketch and using group feedback.

  • Watch “Austin’s Butterfly,” and share their observations on how the kids in the video communicated with each other and what they noticed.  Click here to watch the video  Austin's Butterfly
Our students were able to quickly note the three essentials to quality feedback: KIND, SPECIFIC and USEFUL.

Our students were able to quickly note the three essentials to quality feedback: KIND, SPECIFIC and USEFUL.

  • Group with their original cohorts and tried to give advice on the second draft of the drawing keeping the feedback framework in mind.
Children practice using the big three: KIND, SPECIFIC and USEFUL.

Children practice using the big three: KIND, SPECIFIC and USEFUL.

  • Repeated this with a third and fourth draft.
  • We also did intermittent “gallery walks” to make students more aware of our collective process.
Children observing their peer's sketches and adjustments.

Children observing their peer's sketches and adjustments.

  • Finally we asked the children to choose their best illustration and add color.  
Children focused on specific areas to improve.

Children focused on specific areas to improve.

Oftentimes the sketches initially deteriorated as they tried to make adjustments and incorporate feedback.

Oftentimes the sketches initially deteriorated as they tried to make adjustments and incorporate feedback.

It was noticeable that all students were able to have a voice in the feedback conversations and that most students were receptive to the feedback. Our hunch is that they valued the task and genuinely wanted to improve. Additionally, for some quieter students, knowing they had guideline for how to share increased their confidence in speaking.  For the most part, both parties in the conversation were highly invested. When students had an opportunity to improve their work by doing a subsequent draft, they were incredibly focused and everyone persisted. Not a single kid said, “No way, I can’t do this!”  Doing this activity helped the students understand how feedback works and the three key terms resonated with them.

FEED BACK REDUX: AUSTIN'S BUTTERFLY

This year we followed the flow of our original lesson plan from last year but added a few significant tweaks.

After the students did their second round of feedback, each cohort member collected info from the group on how they might alter their sketch. We then asked the students to capture on a small sticky note the piece of feedback that they thought would be most useful and the one that they planned to focus in on for their next draft.

Last year we discovered that when young children first work with feedback, it can be overwhelming. We wanted them to be cognisant of and focused on the improvement process so we had them do a quick jot to make their thinking visible.

We also asked them to use this same protocol before they did their final sketch. Due to time constraints  and energy levels, we made a responsive teaching decision midstream to finish the final sketch on the following morning. Serendipitously, their captured thinking notes really helped them the next day to tune in quickly to the task at hand and work with intention based on feedback.

This task was one of our initial feedback experiments last year and since then we’ve grown immensely in developing our thinking about how to close an activity with a meaningful reflection piece. Building on our work with success lines and following our interest in making students more aware of the process, we broke our reflection into essential task components. We’re quite interested in making our students more aware of how thinking and emotions are often linked and have the potential to cultivate a growth mindset or a fixed mindset depending on how the pieces weave together for each individual. We wanted to make this connection more explicit for students when involved in the reflection process so we added an emoticon scale creating a simple graph design.

A sample reflection on using feedback

A sample reflection on using feedback

For each task, students used a dot to indicate how they felt when they were involved in this doing this aspect of the activity. All of our students were independently able to accomplish this so we believe that this tool is an effective way to help young explorers visually represent the complicated map of  a learning experience.

Students rate their experience with feedback

Students rate their experience with feedback

For some it was evident right away where their stamina or attitude started to erode. For others, the map gave us a talking point to dig further into their experience through conversation. (i.e. “Oh, I noticed you put your dot for the second biological drawing with an unhappy face, can you tell me more about that?”)

We were also interested in finding out what the students thought they had learned by doing this activity. We left it open-ended but placed three empty boxes after the prompt in order to encourage multiple ideas and implicitly send the message that there is always more than one thing to learn. When you do this type of work you are always immersed in your teacher observations and sometimes you find yourself making assumptions about what students have learned. This simple reflection box really helped us get our heads around what the kids really thought without putting words in their mouths. Truthfully, their words always capture the essence much more succinctly than ours!

© 2014 Dana Melvin and Susie Mutschler