Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Giving Good Advice- Peer Feedback in Primary

In a recent M.Ed. class our topic was on conducting a peer review for scholarly writing. We discussed how important it is to set aside adequate time, ensure appropriate tone (difference between negative and constructive feedback), and going beyond the micro level issues (conventions) to macro issues (ideas, evidence, organization) when reviewing writing samples. Each of us had a very different take on what it feels like to give and receive feedback which was an interesting point of discussion. Feelings included apprehension of presenting writing/fear of judgement, lack of experience providing critiques, and insecurity offering true critical advice. This got me thinking - wouldn't all this be true for peer feedback, even with the youngest of learners?

When I returned to school the next day, I took a closer look at some of the feedback grade 2 classmates had been giving each other in writing (we often offer stars and wishes for each other). I saw a lot of "Good job!", "Great details!", and the occasional remark in regards to adding capitals or periods. Very few students had offered advice going beyond the superficial level. I knew they could be more valuable helpers to one another with a little extra modeling and practice.

I decided to show them the video "Austin's Butterfly". The discussion afterwards led to some valuable learning. They commented on how the advice kids gave was always nice, but honest. How the feedback led Austin to complete something he could be really excited about. That the feedback was easy to understand for kids and really made sense. They were impressed that Austin just didn't give up after 1 or 2 tries. He 'stuck with it'.

The next day we put our new thinking and learning to practice. We reviewed what it means to offer "good advice" - be kind but honest. Take your time. We discussed how it's okay to feel a little uncomfortable giving and receiving feedback and the trust required to take part in the process. Moving forward I recognize that students need to practice this skill, just as any other, but it is time well spent. 

- What might be the impact of regularly integrating peer feedback on classroom community building/trust?
- How might peer feedback impact student self-regulation?
- Will peer feedback increase ability for students to apply feedback to their own work?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reflections to Start a New Year

Over the past few days I have been thinking a lot about where I am, how I got here, and where I'm going. Preparing to begin my final M.Ed. capstone course has prompted me to look back at projects, posts, and reflections from 2014. A large portion of this course is devoted to gathering artifacts based upon program goals and reflecting on their personal and professional impact. I can't help but think back to some of my more recent 'ah has'. This past year I have learned about the value of play and importance of mindfulness not only for my students but also for my own well-being. It is through being in the moment that we are able to make connections with others and experience unexpected learning opportunities. The minute to minute nature of being a classroom teacher can sometimes stand in the way of this. A goal for myself this year is to remember this and truly be in the classroom. This past year I also had the opportunity to be involved with a number of WCDSB committees and working groups where I learned about the importance of not only student inquiry, but teacher inquiry as well. It is through our own learning as eductors that we can make a difference for the learning of our students. In a GAFE session, I remember watching a video about student iteration and that term really stuck with me. Wikipedia defines that "Iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration", and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration." Isn't this what we want from ourselves and our students? To continually reflect upon learning and use new knowledge and understanding to evoke new inquiries? This is the kind of classroom learning environment I hope to help shape in 2015. Jaime Casap delivered an inspiring talk about the need to iterate. I think it's a powerful message for the start of a new year. We can't just wait for something magical to happen to reform education. Casap states, "We just need to start, and we need to continuously iterate, and find new ways to innovate in learning ...". 

I am looking forward to gatheing artifacts and reflections during my capstone journey, but most importantly I hope to use these reflections to spark my own new inquiries. How can I use these experiences moving forward?

Some great advice is offered in the latest blog post by Nicholas Provenzano. 
Making Those New Year's Resolutions Stick | Edutopia
He gives 4 suggestions for setting resolutions for the new year.
1. Do not try to do it all
2. Connect with others for support
3. Take your time and start small
4. Do not fear failure

It's about using iterations to guide next steps and starting, however small. What will you start this year?