Workshop participants identify formative feedback strategies and techniques to apply in their classrooms
By Cheryl Jeffs and Ykje Piera
We expected the formative feedback for teaching development initiative, launched in September 2016 at the University of Calgary, would generate interest and provide some strategies and techniques for instructors. What we didn’t expect was the demand for more resources!
The perspective of this initiative is that formative feedback is an intentional, voluntary, development strategy for instructors to receive feedback about their teaching with the goal of better understanding and improving student learning.
The case for gathering formative feedback is that it is practical, doable, and that it does enhance teaching and student learning (Shute, 2008; Weimer, 2013). Gathering and responding to formative feedback is essential to improving teaching and student learning (Smith, 2001).
If you have ever found yourself wondering why students sometimes experience difficulty with an assignment or with a particular teaching strategy, you are not alone. The ‘inner world’ of learning is not something we can readily observe. Formative feedback can provide a window on how students are learning to enable us to respond to learning challenges in real time, and most importantly to support students more effectively in their learning.
To get instructors started, an evidence-based guide with sample strategies, techniques and activities was produced: Focus on formative feedback for teaching development (Jeffs & Piera, 2016), and a workshop was developed. Building on the question based model, CARRA (Curiosity, Ask, Receive, Reflect, Act), a framework for feedback was introduced, using four lenses of reflective practice, as described by Brookfield (1995). 1. Self, 2. Colleagues, 3. Scholarship, 4. Students (Figure 1).
Expected Outcome The workshop is designed to include purposeful, collaborative learning techniques (Barkley, Major, Cross, 2014). One activity selected was a ‘Gallery Walk’ as described by Francek (2006), and documented by Rodenbagh (2015) as an effective technique to enhance engagement and learning. Participants are assigned a task (in this case to identify formative feedback strategies and techniques) and work together in teams. Each team is assigned one of Brookfield’s four perspectives to discuss and generate strategies and techniques and write them on a whiteboard.
When finished with one perspective, the teams move onto the next whiteboard and the next till they have all had all contributed. This is followed by a “Gallery Walk” around each whiteboard to view and further discuss the strategies and techniques identified by each team (Figure 2). Participants learn from one another and the activity is concluded with a group discussion on new and interesting ideas to adopt in their teaching practice.
This activity worked well with both teaching assistants, and new and experienced instructors. When asked how participants would use what they learned from the workshop, the following comments were offered. “I will use some of the strategies that resulted from the brainstorming session on the four lenses of feedback”, and “I will start a journal (weekly reflection)”.
After the Gallery Walk The workshop and guide were expected to provide instructors with formative feedback strategies and techniques that could be implemented in their practice, with the goal for teaching development. Workshop evaluations indicate this learning outcome was met. What we didn’t expect was the request for more resources, and more workshops on how instructors could process the receiving of the feedback. After each workshop, there is a request for additional resources and workshops on giving and receiving effective feedback – it’s not just a matter of the fundamentals of how to ask for feedback, it’s what to do with it, and how to process it (especially the hurtful and/or negative feedback that is not necessarily formative).
The next phase of the formative feedback for teaching development initiative is to work with various departments and individuals to develop practical and applied materials.
Focus on Formative Feedback for Teaching Development Guide, including a dedicated page of resources, can be downloaded and adapted from http://ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/resources/formative-feedback
Barkley, E., Major, C., & Cross, P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco CA. Jossey-Bass.
Francek, M. (2006). Promoting discussion in the science classroom using gallery walks. Journal of College Science Teaching, September, 27-31.
Jeffs, C., & Piera, Y. Focus on formative feedback for teaching development: A guide. Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary, July 2016. http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/guides
Rodenbaugh, D. (2015). Maximize a team-based learning gallery walk experience: herding cats is easier than you think. Advances in Physiology Education, 39, 411-413.
Shute, V. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153-189.
Smith, R. (2001). Formative evaluation and the scholarship of teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 88, 51-62.
Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco CA: John Wiley & Sons.