I ran in a 10K race on Thanksgiving morning. It was cold and the road conditions were icy so needless to say when the race started I was having second thoughts. However, about mile number two, I started to feel more comfortable, settled into a good rhythm and enjoyed the rest of the race. Later that evening I checked the race organizer’s web site to see my official results. I was curious about how I did in relation to the rest of the field of runners because going into the race I had my own expectations – goals.
This race was ‘chip timed’ so the site provided me with a lot of information about my performance. I was able to see my official time, my average pace per mile, my placing amongst all of the runners, all the male runners, and all of the runners in my age category. It even revealed the number of runners I had passed in the race and the number of runners who had passed me. This was a lot of feedback! This site provided me with specific information about my performance so that I can make a plan to improve my performance in the future.
This got me to thinking about the feedback which we give our students in the classroom. After an assessment or activity, do I provide them with the feedback necessary to understand how to improve their performance? Essentially, the race was a summative assessment and the feedback provided can be used in a formative manner to close the gap between my actual performance and my expected performance – my goal. In the classroom at the conclusion of an assessment/test, students have a score or grade. As teachers, we need to facilitate a process for our students which provides feedback for them so they can begin to close the gap between their actual performance and the learning expectations. Given the intense testing culture of the U.S. education system, it is important to get students to focus on the process of their learning; if we can accomplish this and provide them with rich feedback, then the product (scores) will improve.