Cycle Two Report: Multiple Revision and the Role of Feedback

Girls group workingThe second semester began with a student teacher assuming the role of teacher in the ninth grade class. Also, the class dropped from 30 students in first semester to 23 in second semester. The ratio of boys to girls in this class is 13 males and 10 females.  The class did not receive any new students. Because of the work and attitudes that resulted from the No D and the multiple revision policies, the students indicated a great desire to maintain these two policies in place throughout second semester. The student teacher, Randon Ruggles, reviewed these policies with the students to ensure the students all understood the continuation of their work into second semester. The students indicated to him their need to continue with this work. 

During the first six weeks, the students were completing an extensive writing assignment called “Project: Change the World.” The multiple revision policy was instrumental in their success in this large writing endeavor.  The students were to select a topic that they were passionate about, research the topic, and write a persuasive paper including research to support their stance, about changing the world through their topic. For example, a student selected the topic of child soldiers in Sudan and Darfur. The student wanted the use of child soldiers to stop, found research to support his stance, and wrote a five paragraph, thesis driven paper including documentation of research indicating the change he wanted to see in the world as a result of his stance. Finally, he also ended his paper with an action plan as to what he was going to do to stop of the use of child soldiers. 

The reason the multiple revision policy was instrumental in student’s success with this paper assignment is that throughout the paper, the students were receiving feedback from both the student teacher and teacher in order to improve their writing on each draft and section of the writing process.  The survey that the student’s completed about the multiple revision policy was completed during their writing of the paper.

My action research question is “How do I motivate my students to become more successful learners?”  On this cycle, I shifted the focus to not only the feedback I would give to my students helping them become more successful learners, but concentrated on helping my student teacher become a more successful learner and ultimately teacher through mentoring and developing his own feedback process.

To begin my second cycle, I reflected on the steps that put this cycle together.  At the beginning of second semester, I knew I was going to have a student teacher, Randon taking over two of my English classes. We had discussed before he arrived that he would be taking over my English 9 class on the first day of second semester to establish his presence and relationship with the class right away.  We talked about the class policies my students and I had in place (Class expectations, Teacher Expectations, Student Expectations, No D policy, multiple revision policy, and student generated rubric) and decided he would continue these policies this semester as well as review them with the students. During the first week of school, Randon went over these policies with the class and we all agreed to continue with them. Randon and the students also agreed to participate again in my action research work.  Although the overall goal of my AR remains the same “How do I motivate my students to become more successful learners?”, this cycle will focus on making my student teacher a more successful learner. And in turn, by making him a more successful teacher/ learner, my students will become more successful learners. 

How are we going to achieve this goal?  Randon started the semester teaching the freshman position paper by taking the paper into a more appropriate 21st century direction. In the past, the paper the freshmen wrote focused on selecting a topic the students were passionate about, researching on that topic, and then using the research to write a persuasive five paragraph paper that conveys their ideas.  This year though, I wanted to do something more with the paper so that it was more meaningful and relevant to my students. Since I would not be teaching this class, I went over my ideas with Randon to create the Change the World paper.  We wanted the students to write about something they were passionate about regarding changing in the world. They still would need to find research to support their position but they would also create an action plan for change to accompany their paper. Randon taught this paper and all the writing strategies necessary for our students to be successful.  This was something Randon had never done before and would be a good opportunity for feedback and growth as a learner and teacher. 
Student teaching is a challenge in and of itself, but in addition, Randon had to teach writing to freshman, plan the units, and participate in my research project; there was a lot on Randon’s plate as well as mine to help Randon be successful.  We broke down the paper into a step by step process so the students could see the part to whole and whole to part. One realization we came to quickly was that feedback was going to be very important in helping our students become more successful learners and writers. How was I going to help Randon learn how to give feedback?

Cycle 2: Research Question:

MY ACTIONS (Cycle 2): The research question is “If I provide dynamic support first through modeling, then parallel teaching and then working alone, will this help

  • …my students…
    • become better writers
    • more successful learners
    • be more engaged in their learning
    • seek out extra assistance when they aren’t understanding
  • student teacher…
    • Become a better teacher
    • Learn about the power of effective and meaningful feedback: professionally and to the students
    • Learn and grow over the course of his teaching
    • Reflect on his practices, adapt, change, and improve
    • Seek out assistance when he needs clarification or suggestions
    • Grow as a teacher
    • Grow as a reflective practioners
    • Grow as a mentor
    • Reflect on what it is like to be a student in my classroom
    • Understand more clearly why I give the feedback the way I do examining if it is the best possible method
    • Understand how to give the best feedback to meet my students needs realizing that I might need to give various forms of feedback

Cycle 2a: Modeling Feedback
We decided the first action (Round 1) would be me giving initial feedback on the intro paragraphs and then Randon would follow up my comments with his own.  The students reacted well to getting this feedback.   This helped me get a sense of how well the kids were responding to Randon’s teaching, what I would need to do to support Randon and the kids, and the overall goal of their learning. Randon and I realized upon review of our feedback how differently we give feedback and discussed why I give feedback the way I do- this led to Round Two.

We decided moving forward that Randon would keep the kids in class who were on task and getting their work turned in, and outside of class, we would use a differentiated instruction model. I would take the other kids outside of the classroom, moving tables and chairs as well as their laptops, assisting each kid individually in what areas they were struggling.  Because we have a number of kids were not completing their work, we have kids in various stages of the writing process.  The differentiated instruction should assist with this. 

We also decided in order to make sure Randon is able to give all the feedback he wants without duplicating my feedback, we would have the students turn in two sets of papers to us at each stage in order to maximize the feedback from both teachers.  The students would also receive peer editing feedback in class. 
The students would also complete a reflection sheet called 1-1 feedback that would help us determine how effective the feedback and individualized instruction was in the differentiated sessions occurring outside the class.  

Cycle 2b: Parallel Double Feedback 

The students wrote their next paragraph (first body paragraph), made corrections to their intro paragraph, and turned in two copies for Randon and I to each provide feedback.  Randon had been teaching the paragraph structure to our students and also showing student examples from previous years for the students to learn from.  Randon and I reviewed how important it is for the students to outline their paragraphs before they begin writing, and he followed through with this in his teaching.  After writing the intro and first body, Randon and I each reviewed and commented upon our copies and then returned them to the students.  While we reviewed each other’s comments, we looked for absences or presence of feedback. What did one provide that the other did not? What did we notice we both commented upon? What areas of growth do we see from the first round of feedback?

After returning the papers to the students, we asked them to complete a note card reflection examining the dual feedback they had received. Randon wrote the questions for the students to respond to after one of our morning planning sessions.  The students responded to the following questions:

1.       Name

2.       On a scale of one to five with five being the highest. How helpful has the double feedback been?

3.       Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?

4.       Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback? Why?

5.       What is one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs and why?

After the feedback from Round Two, we decided to continue with our differentiated 1-1 instruction plan to address student learning needs, review plan which provided the dual feedback on student papers, and our evaluation reflections involving teacher review of feedback strategies as a form of collaborative professional development.  We also wanted to make sure the students were completing the 1-1 feedback forms and note card reflections about the dual feedback in order to meet their learning needs helping Randon and I differentiate throughout the writing process.

Cycle 2c: Randon Provides the Feedback

We did not collect two sets of papers for the intro- second body paragraphs for dual feedback because only Randon was teaching the class and I was out of town for graduate school.  Randon provided the feedback on this set of papers and we did not collect any feedback since I was not present to do so. However, Randon and I still split up the class into a differentiated instruction model before and after I was absent. I remained with the students who were behind during the intro- second body writing, and then Randon helped the students who had completed their work.

Cycle 2d: Peer Evaluation on Feedback

We moved on to the students completing their intro- third body paragraphs. During this round of intro-third body, students who were behind remained in the classroom with Randon and I helped the students who had completed their assignment peer edit.  Before returning their work, Randon and I reviewed each other’s feedback on the students’ papers looking once again for absence and presence of comments trying to determine change and growth from when we had completed this after the intro-first body comparison. What did one provide that the other did not? What did we notice we both commented upon? What areas of growth do we see from the first round of feedback? After handing back our dual feedback, we asked the students to once again complete a note card reflection on the feedback they have received from us. On a note card, they were to answer the following questions:

1.       Name

2.       On a scale of 1-5 with five being the highest, how helpful has the double feedback been?

3.       Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?

4.       Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback ? Why?

5.       What is the one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs?

6.       Is this more or less helpful in your writing? Why?

We decided that this would be the last round of dual feedback since the students would be completing their essays the next week. Students would be completing individualized conferences with Randon to assess their paper after he had read and graded them.

Cycle 2e: Individual Feedback Sessions

Students, after completing their Change the World paper, signed up for individualized writing conferences with Randon. This is where all the work of Randon and I had completed (reviewing each other’s comments, providing dual feedback, 1-1 sessions, and soliciting feedback from the students) should show an effect. During the final writing conference, Randon went over the paper with the student explaining his assessment of the paper, asking question of the student, and clarifying any question the student had.  After the students had all completed their final writing conference, we asked the students to respond in class to the following questions:

  • What was the most effective part of the dual feedback you received?
  • What could have been improved about the feedback you received?  Think about oral feedback, written feedback, and dual feedback.
  • Over the course of the A-CW paper, do you think your writing improved? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
  • What essential writing skills did you take away from the unit?
  • What suggestions for improvement do you have for teaching the A-CW paper next year?  What suggestions would you give to students next year in completing A-CW?
  • What kinds of feedback were the most meaningful and relevant?  Think about oral feedback, written feedback, and dual feedback.
  • Over the course of the semester, did you notice a change in Mr. Ruggles’ feedback ? Think about oral feedback (1-1), written feedback, and dual feedback. Did his feedback improve over time?  What suggestions would you have for his continued improvement in giving feedback?
  • Over the course of the semester, how helpful was Smith’s feedback?  Was the written, oral (1-1), dual feedback the most helpful? What was the least helpful? What suggestions do you have for Smith to help Mr. Ruggles with feedback?

The students were informed of the importance of this last reflection and their honesty and thoughtfulness were encouraged.


Round One Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence
As focal points for our discussions examining feedback, we looked at absences and presences. We started looking at each student’s papers one by one. After the first five, we noticed we were commenting on the same things. Randon indicated he did not want to repeat my comments so he did not reiterate what I had already written. As far as analysis, that made it more difficult to determine reliability since his comments were not on the paper but instead indicated orally to me. This is one thing we are going to change for the next time we go through this process. 

We agreed that all the students need to work on eliminating personal words and contractions in their essays and their proofreading for these features needs to greatly increase. We also pinpointed some students who need extra attention with their thesis statements before they move on. We discussed a course of action for these struggling students. I would take them aside separately and almost conduct a writer’s workshop of sorts in order to help the student along individually.
We are not sure at this point why some of the students are still struggling with their thesis statements and intro paragraphs.  We both commented that the form of intervention above (differentiated instruction) might be the best to assist these students as well.  Most of the kids who are struggling seem to be the ones who are completing only some work in class, are not following the structure of the paragraphs, and really need some one on one attention. This is going to be the intervention strategy we are going to explore and see if it makes a difference.

We are also wondering why so many kids are not completing their work. Why are we not receiving thesis statements, intro paragraphs and now first body paragraphs? These are conversations we need to have individually with the students emphasizing the work of a differentiated classroom.  We even noticed going through our comments together that we are differentiating comments for each student. Some students who struggle more in writing receive more feedback and direction than students who are getting the concepts and formats.  So not only is our classroom a differentiated learning environment but our feedback reflects that as well.  We are going to make sure we are meeting all kids’ needs by giving them more in class time to work and meet with us individually, hopefully seeing greater growth in their writing and work completion. 

Specifically looking at our feedback, we noticed that we had a lot of common notes such as citation of sources, structure of writing, personal words and contractions. The areas we differed were how we went about conveying other aspects. I typically write my comments into the margins of their essays offering constructive criticism and some praise.  Randon writes a direct note to the writer offering praise, suggestions for improvement and a positive message of encouragement on most of his responses. He does this all in a paragraph format at the end of the essay.

We concluded that the best thing Randon can do is to find a system of giving feedback that works really well for him.  We both agreed that we really need to keep up with the differentiated instruction as well as that carrying over into the feedback. Every kid needs different forms of feedback to assist them in their learning. 
Going forward, we are going to use a differentiated instruction method where I pull out kids into the hallway and work specifically with each one on areas they are struggling with. Randon will remain in the classroom to work with the entire class.  On days where they are doing peer editing, Randon will work specifically with kids one on one and I will be roaming the room.

Randon’s reaction-

Randon’s reaction to this first round was one where he found it to be very beneficial to him and his learning.  He felt like this opportunity to be part of the research project, and to learn how to give meaningful feedback would be helpful. Randon commented in his blog:
                One, we both had similar markings, which is what I would like to see (at least that I am catching the main errors in student writing). Secondly, Anne likes to mark things on the side of the page with a little note beside it. I, however, tend to want to write a paragraph to students at the bottom of their paper. In fact, I frame my paragraph with a good comment at the top and some sort of suggestion to keep students’ learning increasing throughout the drafting and writing process. I really enjoyed seeing the different ways that we give feedback. Third, Anne tends to be very critical in her feedback, which is really good and I believe helpful in this situation. However, I had a hard time finding a positive comment. I really feel that students today need some sort of positive feedback to continue learning and know that they did something right at least. I do see Anne’s point in being very restrictive with the positive comments, because it takes more weight when a teacher writes “Good Job” on a paper every once in a while, as opposed to every time they receive a paper back.

To conclude, today’s exercise of walking through the papers and learning what Anne wrote, what I wrote the same, and then talking about that was really helpful. It has started to give me a much better idea of proper assessment and what that looks like in today’s world of education. I look forward to our next challenge and learning opportunity…

Overall, I think it was a really interesting round of learning about each other. Randon and I had a good conversation about feedback, quality and quantity of feedback, what is important about feedback as well as what are differences are in giving feedback. We both walked away from the conversation excited about where we are taking this cycle.  We are both in this together and it feels like this time we are both vested in seeing the students succeed. Randon being directly involved in this cycle versus inheriting the other cycle is making the difference. Moving forward, I hope to see growth in both my feedback and Randon’s so that our students’ success as learners improves.

Round Two Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence

After changing our feedback process to writing on two copies of the students’ papers, Randon and I noted many of the same mistakes the students are making as well as noted some areas of change.  We provided feedback on mechanical errors students were making. Many of the mistakes are simply errors in proofreading and not making the corrections from the last feedback round. This was frustrating to both of us knowing the amount of time it takes to give quality feedback and seeing students making the same errors over and over again.  We were both very detailed in our comments about punctuation and mechanical errors.  Also, we noticed that Randon tended to make a large note to the student at the end of the paper whereas I wrote my comments throughout the paper.  The students struggled with citations of their research and so we can see this as an area where we need to provide more instruction.

One change noted between Randon and I is that I spent more time making sure to leave positive feedback when appropriate.  I wanted to make sure students recognized growth from their first draft especially with areas they worked to improve upon. Also, Randon started changing his comments into questions and leaving more detailed feedback. These are really important changes showing how we are both learning from the time taken to review our comments and feedback with one another. 

Additionally, the students benefit from us reviewing our feedback because we can see areas that need to be re-taught, reviewed or introduced.  For example, although we were expecting students to cite their sources, Randon had not introduced how to cite sources so that they connect to their works cited.  This is an aspect we noticed as a result of conferencing with one another.

Because of taking the time to review feedback with one another, we were able to add aspects to one another’s papers that were to be returned to the students. This should eliminate any mistakes where one has comments for the student and another does not.  Trying to reduce confusion with the students in giving feedback is a challenge with two sets of feedback.

Student feedback on note cards

The students’ feedback on the note card reflections was surprising and informative for this was the first time they had received dual feedback on separate copies of their work. Out of 23 students, 22 completed the survey. One point of interest is that out of the 22 students, 19 students rated the dual feedback as a three- five on helpfulness with five being the most helpful.  15 ranked it as a four or five.  This is very valuable because the students have never written such a large paper before and this demonstrates how important the feedback Randon and I are giving is to the students.  To follow up this question on the helpfulness of the feedback, it is important to ask if the feedback is overwhelming. 12 students said no, five said yes, and three indicated a little. This shows that some students are struggling with the quantity of feedback while others are finding the quantity valuable. Finally, the students’ commented regarding their preference for one teacher’s feedback.  13 students responded that they would not prefer one teacher feedback, but would rather have dual feedback; five said they would prefer only one teacher’s feedback, and three indicated that it does not matter.  The five that indicated they would prefer only one teacher’s feedback reasoned that the quantity of feedback from two teachers is overwhelming and by only having one teacher’s feedback, this would eliminate the feelings.  Also, a couple of the replies indicated they wanted feedback only from the teacher who would be grading their paper.

Round Three Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence

We reviewed the papers and looking overall, we noticed that we are pretty similar in catching punctuation and mechanical errors, although Randon would do really well on the first page or so of the paper, and would fall off after that point. When asked about this, he was not sure why that was happening and also commented that he did not see why he needed to keep marking the same mistakes. We discussed the role of a teacher and assessor in giving feedback; our job is being to help kids edit the papers and show the mistakes so that they can see what errors they are making.   If we do not mark it, the kids do not recognize that it is a mistake they are making. They can not learn and grow then.

Randon’s reaction

Randon reaction to this round of feedback mimicked much of what was previously commented on in the analysis:
                Anne wrote down a lot more comments than I did, but I am learning a lot from this experience, and specifically from this feedback time. 
One thing that I learned was to look at the big picture.  I often got caught up in the little details of the papers that I was giving feedback on, the commas, errors in punctuation, and other marks, that I forgot to acknowledge the larger picture.  What does this quote have to do with the entire paragraph?  What about its significance to the entire paper?  I seemed to miss this connection in many of the papers that I gave feedback on.  I will need to remember this fact as I continue on the journey of this paper. 

Another thing I learned was to mark everything.  There were a few papers in particular that after the first page of the same errors time and time again – personal words, contractions, or missing the same element every time – that I honestly gave up.  I did not mark anymore.  I figured that since I marked it on the first three pages that the student should be able to figure it out.  This spurred an interesting conversation with Anne and a realization inside me.  Anne told me, and I agree with her, that it is our job as educators to mark everything – to give the student the feedback.  Then in the wonderful questioning method of reflection she asked me this: How is a student to know what they did wrong if you do not mark it?  That caused an interesting reaction inside of me.  I thought initially that it was a waste of time for me to mark everything at the beginning, but instead now that I realize it I need to.  They may not realize their mistake, they may not change it, or they may ignore the mistake on a later page because I did not mark it.  So, the next round of feedback I will be marking everything and giving the students the feedback that they deserve and that I would want if I was the student. 

There are a few things we still need to work on in terms of giving feedback.

1) Extensive Feedback:  We decided that we needed to give feedback throughout the paper. Even if students are making the same mistakes, we thought it was important to give thorough feedback since we are doing limited in class peer to peer feedback.  With the peer to peer work, we found that we needed to do a better job training our students on how to give feedback. This could be an extension of this work into next year and their next writing assignment since they have seen Randon and I model feedback and they have reflected on the kinds of feedback they have received from us.

2) Using similar language terms for editing helps students:  I used writing terminology that is familiar to the kids when I taught first semester and Randon used language in his feedback when he taught the class. This might have lead to some confusion because I overheard students debriefing with Randon at their final writing conference that they were confused as to some of the terminology (explanation of quote, relate quote to point of paragraph, relate quote to thesis- Anne’s terminology v. Randon’s –quote says, point to the paragraph, make the point). Keeping our language similar would assist the students in their feedback and understanding. 

3) Stress Coherence.  We discussed the need to focus on bringing all their points back to the overall point of the essay. This was a struggle for Randon having never taught writing before. This is one area consistently where he would consistently focus on details rather than the students making the big argument.  Are they actually relating everything back to the thesis? 

Randon does a really nice job of leaving a paragraph at the end of their writing discussing things he thinks they need to work on.  I have not adapted to his style of feedback because I like giving point by point feedback within the paragraph.  Both methods combined would work well where the student has the point by point corrections within the paragraph and an overall paragraph at the end with further extensions.  Randon is shifting to this method more of not just an end paragraph, but notes within the paragraph as well. Also, he started asking more questions of his writer and not just pointing out elements that were missing.

Randon also commented on the process of dual feedback that this really helped to clarify grading and feedback. It helped to see why I give feedback the way I do. Modeling feedback and teaching someone how to give feedback and justification for grades is a lot more difficult than I thought.

Student feedback to note card reflection

Only 11 students are on track to complete the assignment on time at this point.  With the 11 who have completed their intro-third body paragraphs, we asked the students to once again reflect on the dual feedback they are receiving from Randon and my self.  11 students indicated that on a scale of one to five with five being the most helpful, that the feedback was a three through five.  These are high numbers in regards to the feedback and how helpful it has been.
When asked about how overwhelming the feedback is, five students indicated a “yes” response, six indicated a “no” response.  This is a change from the last time. In comparison, the last time we solicited this feedback, most of the class did not feel the dual feedback was overwhelming. Some possible reasons for this change could be that the students are further along in their paper, and so if they have not been making changes all along, they would be falling further and further behind regardless of getting more suggestions for improvement. Maybe only having dual feedback for those that really want both perspectives and those who do not, they can submit one paper.

Another piece of the note card reflection was asking the students about their preference for one teacher providing feedback. Four students indicated “yes” and six indicated “no”.  The same four responses that were in the yes category of this question were in the yes category of the previous question.  A reason kids struggle with the dual feedback is that there is too much feedback for some kids to handle. Two sets of feedback and, with their struggles in writing, might be too overwhelming.

The final question on the note card reflection asked if the students felt the dual feedback was more or less helpful in their writing.  10 indicated more helpful and one indicated less. Interestingly, on the previous two questions the kids were basically split 50-50 in their responses about the helpfulness of dual feedback, but in this last question resoundingly the kids feel that it is better for their writing.  Why the difference? What could bring about the disparity? Is it that they do not like the multitude of responses but value the feedback? So, if we could combine the feedback into one document, would that make a difference?

Moving forward, I can see one final reflection from the students on this whole process. They are each meeting with Randon to review their final papers and grade. When they are done, it would be good for them  to reflect on the feedback they have received in that final conference- how well did the feedback throughout the writing process prepare them for their final paper (this would include the 1-1 feedback, Randon circulating the room, dual feedback on their papers, and final conference with Randon).  I also want Randon to reflect on the entire process. He has reflected after the first time we compared feedback (intro paragraphs) and after the last time we did this (intro -3rd), but I am anxious and interested to hear about changes he has noticed in himself, in the students about feedback and growing as a learner. 

Round Four Analysis:

Randon created a sign-up sheet for the students to meet with him individually regarding their paper. I did not participate in these conferences because it really was Randon’s time after all our discussions about writing and feedback to be the sole disseminator of the feedback and assessment.  Randon was initially frustrated with the conferences because students would miss their appointments, but he commented that the conferences were meaningful overall.  This is definitely echoed in their responses to Randon’s growth in giving feedback to the students. They commented over and over again about how meaningful his oral feedback was to their understanding and improvement in writing. The chance to sit down and talk through the paper with the student 1-1 was very important to have each one understand the grading and writing process. They had a chance to ask questions and solicit more feedback if need be.

The students completed an in-class reaction to the whole writing and feedback process at the end of the writing conferences.  The questions the students responded to were a good gauge to see how effective this cycle was in helping Randon become a more successful learner and in turn for the students to become more successful learners.  When asked about the effectiveness of the dual feedback from Randon and I, 17 students out of 21 indicated that having the two points of view to learn from was meaningful. Eight of the 21 indicated that it was nice to have two teachers indicating areas of improvement and point out mistakes that could be corrected.  Overall this shows a real positive view of the dual feedback process in helping Randon learn how to give feedback and grow as a teacher. The students also indicated areas of improvement for Randon and I with giving feedback.  Some students felt the feedback was contradictory, others needed increased clarity and more specifics, some felt it was repetitive, but overall, the kids really emphasized how important the oral feedback was to them in the writing process.  Their assertion is supported by their feedback to the question “what kinds of feedback were the most meaningful and relevant?”  Seven kids out of 21 indicated the oral feedback, seven indicated the written feedback, four indicated dual feedback and two indicated all kinds of feedback. 18 out of the 21 students learning needs were meet as referenced in the feedback they provided because of the differentiated feedback that Randon and I were able to provide. This is a great learning experience for both Randon and I to reflect upon seeing what each learners needs to grow as a writer.  And growing as writers, we see from their reflections that 21 indicated a positive change in their growth as a writer.  The students indicated learning structure of formal papers, incorporation of research and quotations, explaining information, taking a position, and organization. 

All of these are areas for Randon to take pride in. His students changed into more successful writers as a result of the feedback, his teaching style and presentation of information, and his willingness to solicit feedback from them.  15 students out of 21 indicated a positive change in Randon over the course of his teaching the Change the World paper. They specified his growth in the area of giving feedback acknowledging his change from first being tentative to giving criticism to one where he provided not only written feedback, but dual feedback with me, oral feedback, and one to one learning sessions. 20 students also commented on my role during the writing process indicating a positive response to how helpful my limited role was.

Overall reflection:

This semester so far has been truly interesting on many levels as is this year in my life pursuing my Masters’ degree. I have seen tremendous change in my self and giving permission to myself to try new things. I took on a student teacher and turned over control of teaching, learning, and grades to him and my students.  Reflecting on all of these changes is challenging because my mind reels from the possibilities, the mistakes, and the future to come.  Was this semester effective and meaningful? Did I do my job helping Randon learn and grow to be a more successful version of himself? Did he help my students learn and grow to become more successful learners? 

Change in Feedback:

A major area of reflection is the change in giving feedback both to our students and to Randon.  The students responded so well to helping us all learn and grow from the experience.  When first presented with dual sets of feedback the students were really overwhelmed.  Interestingly though, although the feedback was abundant, they rose to the challenge and realized how valuable the feedback was even if it seemed too much for them.  I do not know why, but I did not think that the dual sets of feedback would be overwhelming.  This was helpful feedback to think about. How can we meet all learners’ needs so that they are getting an appropriate amount of feedback from Randon and I, but without overwhelming the students at the same time.  The students pointed out the feedback seemed overwhelming because there was so much of their paper to fix.  The kids were basically split 50-50 in their responses about the helpfulness of dual feedback, but resoundingly the kids feel that it is better for their writing.  Why the difference? What could bring about the disparity? Is it that they do not like the multitude of responses but value the feedback? So, if we could combine the feedback into one document, would that make a difference?  I wonder if individual conferences on their papers would be better or Randon and I combining our feedback to avoid redundancy to assist the students.  Is there a way to have Randon and I combine our feedback onto one paper? Maybe ask the students if they only want one set of feedback and then they only receive what they would like? I wonder if it would make a difference to have all the feedback on one paper rather than the students submitting two papers with two sets. Randon and I could have alternated between who adds comments first.  My concern with that is that it is important for me to help Randon learn to give feedback and improve as a teacher, and if I am not modeling effective feedback, then I would worry a student would be missing out.  I hope all kids see the value of feedback even if it is overwhelming and see the feedback as a tool to improve their writing and ultimately their learning. One change I can see that definitely needs to be made is that the feedback needs to be consistent, on one document, and contain positive acknowledgments as well as suggestions for improvement.

Also, some students indicated in their comments about feedback that our feedback was contradictory. There suggestions for improvement indicated that they wished Randon  and I would look over each other’s feedback before we hand back the papers to them.  We do this but the students are not seeing some consistency with our feedback. I wonder if our language in our comments is different and that is the reason why? Or is it the amount of feedback and so it seems different in the manner and style in which it is written? We sit down with our two sets and compare the two sets seeing what commonalities and disparities we have and then add comments to our paper set before we return it to the students.  So, I would think our feedback would be similar since we have gone over the feedback ahead of time.  Their confusion could be tied to the use of different language from Randon and I. I wonder if using the same language and commenting only on one paper with two sets of feedback would eliminate their confusion.

Another interesting point of reflection is that some students only wanted to receive feedback from the teacher who would be grading their final work. Although we have spent time thinking about learning and grades, I still see students focused so hardily on the grade they are going to receive rather than the learning taking place. I wonder if we did blind grading where they would  not know who is going to grade their paper or provide feedback, would they focus more on their writing and thinking than about the end result of a letter grade. This also shows such a strong emphasis or society has placed on grades rather than learning.  This is a tough idea to combat and one that I continue to work on with my students openly discussing that I am more concerned about their learning than their grade.  Another idea would be to use the model from the Art of Possibility where every student has an A at the beginning of the semester and the students write a letter expressing how they achieved that grade before they even start working. This way the focus is altered from the grade to the process.  And writing and learning are processes. For kids that responded that they would not prefer only one teacher’s feedback, I wish there was more expansion on their ideas.  Maybe asking them specifically “why” it is more helpful to them and their writing. Maybe they could not see a connection between the dual sets of feedback and improving as a writer or as a learner?
Looking forward, I am wondering how I will do all this next year without a student teacher. I wonder what will make the greater difference in my students’ success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments?  In school there is limited time for me to connect and conference with each student.  Not to mention, I actually need to teach the curriculum and meet each student’s learning needs in a 55 minute class period. So as the teacher in the classroom, I must decide how to spend our class time to benefit all students not just some. Can I enlist the assistance of the students who are more proficient or advanced in providing feedback to some of the struggling students? This way the entire class benefits: the students who are advanced and proficient can provide additional editing support for students who are behind. This in turn benefits the classroom creating a community of learners where all are invested in helping one another succeed.  This might be one way to continue to 1-1 feedback sessions and dual feedback on their writing work without a student teacher present. After all, the goal is to help the students become more successful learners and through teaching, commenting, and reflecting on one another’s work, they can learn from one another. With adequate training for peer review of work, this could be a successful model of intervention allowing for me as the teacher to have more instruction time, 1-1 oral feedback time, and more meaningful written feedback time.

I know one regret I had this year was that we did not do as good a job helping our students become better peer editors and I think this is one area to focus on next time we do writing in class. We need to develop our students and our selves into reflective practioners who think critically, edit, and revise their work continuing to want to improve themselves and their work. If they can do this of their own work, they can help others grow thus creating a learning environment that is supportive of each member growing through the feedback everyone provides.  I think this is one way to continue the dual feedback aspect that the kids valued as well as making time for me to conference individually with students to enable oral feedback that others need. Maybe there is a way to incorporate more of a learning circle approach to writing so that they students are trained well enough in providing both written and oral feedback that they can conference with one another. I know I see tremendous growth in student’s own writing when they read and react to peer work. When they are teachers of the content and skills versus receptors, they remember the skills and knowledge longer and can apply it more frequently.  In turn this would not only help the student himself, but would help the class and the teacher because all would be involved in the writing and feedback process.

For my students:

Another area to acknowledge is helping the students see themselves as writers not merely students in a Language Arts classroom. I think the students do not always see the huge changes they have made since they stepped foot into my classroom back in August. I noticed this as well with Randon. He would be so focused on the negative or things he did not do well, that he would forget all his accomplishments and areas of growth. So whether it is helping my students see themselves as more successful writers, readers or learners, I need to focus on making this an aspect of my classroom.  Learning is a continuum and we are all on the path towards continued improvement.

Based off their feedback, most all students found growth in their writing.  21 students indicated positive growth in writing. This is a huge accomplishment for not only them as they have improved, but for Randon’s teaching as well.  This demonstrates the power of mentoring and feedback (oral, written, 1-1) in changing the students by changing Randon.

For Randon:

Over the semester, I have seen growth in Randon and myself each of us becoming a different version of who we were before. Having never taught before, Randon grew into someone who put together a writing unit, developed writing skills in his students, and challenged them to change the world with their essays. He grew in learning to accept feedback from me and his students in order to improve as a teacher. There is still so much to learn for him (giving consistent feedback, remembering the big picture with writing, variety in feedback, expanding in explanations), but he is on the continuum of learning especially if he learns to accept, reflect, and be open-minded. He has had such an experience of student teaching because he not only had me mentoring him, but in a way, he had a classroom of students mentoring him in teaching and learning as well.

Also, Randon inherited all of aspects of cycle one, but this one was different. He was directly involved. Through our conversations about teaching, our reflections with mentoring, and comparing feedback, he was as much a participant as a driver of this cycle.  Without his participation, I would not have been able to see the power of dual feedback, given the time to have in class 1-1 writing conferences, or the chance to reflect on how I give feedback.  All of these enabled me to change as a teacher and learner.

Randon’s method of feedback changed over the course of the semester as well. He began with focusing on very positive aspects of the students writing somewhat fearful of giving constructive criticism. Throughout our conferences, he found a style that works for him. Randon started changing his comments into questions and leaving more detailed feedback.  These changes reflect aspects that I do when I leave comments. I think these are really important changes showing how we are both learning from the time taken to review our comments and feedback with one another. He still likes the reflective paragraph at the end with his overall thoughts, but he has also expanded his comments with-in the paragraphs to show the students areas that need work or to leave a specific positive comment. This shows such growth for Randon. Instead of it being about the work of giving feedback, he sees the feedback as something that will benefit the student. He came to the realization of how important this is in the life of a student to know what to improve upon in their writing and how to improve in their writing. To me, this demonstrates such success in Randon and clearly defines the purpose of feedback for himself and for his future students. He sees in the value in giving quality feedback to his students. This will benefit him and them in the long run.  I hope to see this carry forth.

For me:

For me, I see changes in the way I give feedback to not only my students but to Randon as well. I realized I need to make a better effort to give positive feedback and not just acknowledge areas that are needed for improvement.  Focusing specifically on the kinds of comments given in early versions of the paper, what was really interesting is noting the lack of praise I gave in my responses to Randon’s praise of almost everything. This lead to good conversation and reflections about accurate praise versus false praise. I want to make sure we are encouraging but not giving false hopes.

I wonder if I am becoming too direct rather than focusing on some good aspects of their writing. Often times I find it challenging on the first go around of editing paper to give a lot or praise but I work towards more praise with each revision. A possible solution to this is to use more affirming comments that are honest in their message.  That way the student’s work is acknowledged but progress and constructive criticism can be made as well.

Over the course of the paper, I found myself concentrating more and more on the kinds of feedback I was giving making sure to acknowledge good work, progress, positive aspects and constructive criticism. As previously mentioned, Randon’s comments made me really think about the amount of positive feedback I give.  Am I not acknowledging positive aspects of their writing?  Or should I try to find something positive in their writing even if it is not apparent in order to make sure they have encouragement?   Sometimes I get so focused on helping them improve, that I do not always compliment the things they have done consistently well, nice phrasing of sentences, or trying new styles with their writing.

I saw a change in how I think about feedback as well. I realized how important it is to make sure I am explaining my comments, the value of 1-1 time with my students, the value in providing multiple feedback times without overwhelming myself, and the need to train my students to be better at giving feedback. I already see how important it is for me to explain the kind of feedback I give and why I give that feedback. Thinking ahead, I will make a more conscious effort to give positive feedback but making sure it is meaningful and relevant. I do not want to give false praise.  I hope Randon sees the value in making appropriate comments and not just giving comments to for the sake of commenting.  This was part of our reflection conversations when we were reviewing the feedback we were giving on the students’ papers. So many of my grading and feedback strategies have just been developed over time and to think about why I give feedback, how I give feedback and give grades has been a nice reflection. I needed to think while giving feedback and not just give feedback.

Another change in me was the realization that I need to be supportive of ways Randon wants to teach things even if I disagree. It is better to let him or my students fail and learn from their mistakes rather than jumping in to try and save them. Thinking back, I wish I would have had Randon record the student’s comments about receiving solely his comments on their intro-2nd body paragraphs. This would have been an interesting comparison between the other sets of feedback we received because on this set there would have been only one.  Also, I felt very confident leaving Randon and going to Orlando for graduate school; having seen the work he was doing with the students and his progress in giving feedback, I felt ok being away from the students for that period of time. Randon was part of the research process as well as the students and so they all knew how important it was to work together.  By allowing them and myself to learn from each experience, we all grow as a result into better versions of ourselves.

Giving the classroom over to Randon in order to help him grow as a learner and teacher was a challenge.  But, seeing the results from the students and maintaining a presence by working with students more individually by providing written and oral feedback on their work, I feel that the Change the World paper was not so much just a change for Randon, and for my students, as it was for me as a teacher who now sees what it is like to be a student/ learner/ teacher in her own classroom.