The Chalk Blog

This blog was originally published on Teaching Channel on April 28th, 2020. Shared with permission.

During these times of distance learning, teaching is hard; and closing the feedback loop is especially difficult right now. Every teacher knows the power of an “over the shoulder glance” when it comes to checking for understanding. But how do we do this in a virtual classroom? We can’t simply depend on adaptive technology programs to let our students know if they are actually mastering content; this feedback is not descriptive enough to allow for assessment for learning but rather assessment of learning. So what can this look like in our new reality of teaching and learning? 

In a previous post I shared what assessment-feedback and reflection specifically could look like with the use of single point rubric. And while I think this continues to be a good “northstar” to guide us, most teachers are still trying to wrap their minds around how to simply provide feedback to students. So for those of us that are planners and appreciate guardrails to guide us, this one's for you! 

Establish systems

As tech tools continue to be thrown your way, proceed with caution and try to be mindful of entry points to these apps and platforms as tools to help you teach. What I mean by this is to try to first consider what systems you want in place to help you deliver content and engage with students in a meaningful way; then find the technology that best supports that process- not the other way around. Here are a few systems that support Blended Learning, which is a helpful approach to teaching during distance learning. 

  • Asynchronous Learning Modules -these are self-paced “workshops” that include content offered in a variety of formats (PPT slides, videos, reading, etc.)
  • Live workshops-these are very similar to the lectures or mini-workshops you likely ran in your classroom, only they are in front of your screen rather than in your classroom. You can even record these workshops in case students need to reference them again later or in the event they can’t attend at the time you offer it. 
  • Office hours-you likely remember these from college. These are simply blocks of time that you are available to support students who need extra help. Although these are optional, you can strongly encourage specific students to attend them. 
  • Group break outs- you can assign students to meet as groups during specific times to either work on a collaborative task or to provide one another feedback on their work. These should be short meetings (15-30 min) and a teacher should be present to ensure that students are on task. 
  • Feedback Friday- this is a day dedicated to checking in with each student and providing descriptive feedback on their work and learning. 

I have vetted and collected technology resources to help you with the above systems; and in this post I highlight my favorite tech tools.

Establish structures 

A weekly schedule can be useful to guide the process for collecting resources for students, but also helpful for parents and students to see “at a glance” what they should be completing during the week, and what supports are available to help them. Below is a weekly schedule structured to support teaching a science concept, from this project that I designed for parents or teachers to run at home. 

 

Mon

Tues

Weds

Thurs

Fri

Science Week 3: Content

“Intro to the Magnus Effect”

“The Reverse Magnus Effect”

“Applying the Magnus Effect”

“Explaining the Magnus Effect”

Teacher

Office Hours

Feedback Friday 

Learning Opportunities

Asynchronous Learning module [reading, video] 

Small group workshops, 

Teacher

Office Hours 

Live

Synchronous workshop

Group breakout rooms

(peer feedback)

 

Pacing:

Complete assignment 3A

Complete assignment 3B

Complete assignment 3C (self revision)

Complete assignment 3D

Individual reflection 

Share the load 

Teachers don’t have to carry this load alone- we can think about how to share the load with students and experts. In a perfect world we would be able to sit next to every student and “catch them” before they go too far down the wrong path in their learning. However, most teachers in the current set up aren’t able to do that; So here are a few ways that students can get feedback independent of the teacher:

  • Self checklist -This is a great “safety net” for students to be sure they have what they need in a given assignment.
  • Peer feedback-Students can use Flipgrid, Google Doc comments, or group break out rooms to do this. Pro tip: Scaffold this process for students the first time they do it and be sure to provide students with sentence frames.  
  • Seek out feedback-Require students to request feedback from three individuals (this could be parents, older siblings, family friends, etc.)
  • Ask an expert- Provide students with an email template to ask an expert for their feedback on their work. 

Close the loop 

In the sample science schedule posted above you will notice that I have “Feedback Friday” built into the week. Not only is this a time for the teachers to “catch up” on assessment and feedback, but it’s also a time for students to self reflect on their learning which, as we know, is an important part of assessment for learning, rather than of learning. These reflections are beyond daily reflections, and are more in-depth opportunities for students to think about themselves as a learner. 

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, topics like assessment and feedback will likely flesh themselves out a bit more. Until then establishing systems and structures will help chart a path toward teaching and learning that likely feels a bit more familiar to you and your students.


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