Feedback for students in a virtual classroom

Teachers across the world have adapted extraordinarily to teaching remotely or in a virtual classroom. Many of us, including myself, have endured a steep learning curve of what works and what doesn’t for our students in an online environment. As a teacher who has taught both asynchronously and synchronously (fancy words for pre-recorded and live), I’ve acquired some useful and effective ways in providing virtual feedback for students.

The three examples discussed aren’t new to some, however, it can be easy to forget our best practice amidst the chaos of trying to deal with technology, and create new or engaging content for the next day. In actual fact, feedback IS the content.

Share examples of student’s learning

In the classroom, WAGOLLS (What A Good One Looks Like) is fairly standard teaching practice. Furthermore, it is commonplace to share examples of the students work to peer assess and discuss. This can be very easily achieved virtually.

If recording your lessons in advance is how you’re rolling at the moment, build in time at the beginning to share some examples of great learning. If using iMovie to edit your video, you can either share the examples beside you whilst you praise and discuss, or you can display it in full view with your voice narrating over the top.

Seesaw, aka the best virtual learning tool ever, offers many options for sharing great examples of learning. You can record an announcement to children, including screenshots of the students submissions, or publish this directly to the class blog for students to give peer feedback.

An easy option for those teaching live lessons, create a simple slide deck with screenshots of children’s learning and ‘present’ this as the children enter the call. Ask the students to write down some feedback for their peers whilst they are waiting for others to join.

Create a slide deck to present during a live lesson

Why?

  • Increases engagement and motivation.
  • Meaningful to students, their effort is valued
  • Continues building positive relationships with your students
  • Peer assessment
  • Reinforces the success criteria

Feedback that challenges students to self-correct

This technique, is referred to as “detective work” by formative assessment guru Dylan William. It works fantastically in the classroom but is equally as effective online. Your aim is to provide feedback that doesn’t do the work for the children by simply marking errors.

Offer feedback that suggests there are things to improve on, then let the students do the searching. For my year 2 class, I’ll record verbal feedback such as:

“A fantastic effort at…There are 2 mistakes, can you find and fix them?”

This challenges students to reflect on their own learning and consider ways to improve without being told.

When teaching live lessons, you could mention:

“Something doesn’t look quite right, take another look?”

Why?

  • Time-saving
  • Activates student thinking
  • Challenges pupils to self-correct

Mark less, Teach more

This is quite possibly my favourite technique. Quite often there is a stack of home learning to sift through by the end of the day and it seems never-ending. Not forgetting that you need to plan and/or record the next lesson (and the rest). What if you spent less time marking and more time teaching?

Start off by choosing one subject, I like maths, due to it’s naturally responsive nature. Then, don’t mark a single thing for that lesson!

Look through the learning that has been submitted and define the key areas that can be reviewed or revisited. Write this down on a post-it and Hey Presto! you’ve just planned your next lesson. After all, assessment is a cyclical process that should inform our planning.

Too often we view learning as a linear process, starting and ending in one lesson. In this remote learning period, when unable to physically offer our students the best support or guidance, it’s time to slow down.

Once the misconceptions or weaker areas have been defined by skimming through the students submissions. Re-teach that specific area in your next lesson. Explain to students what the common errors were, or better yet, use an example of a “cartoon student” who makes lots of errors, to promote discussion at the beginning of the lesson.

Then provide further examples where they review that one specific area in order to improve. More of the same, rather than constantly creating something new. For those who are secure, they could then move on to a challenge that explores greater depth if needed to, whilst you focus on those who need more guided practice. When teaching live, pose an assessment “hinge question” to accurately identify where your students are at. Some of that learning might just have been completed with a little help from Mummy or Daddy!

Why?

  • Links assessment to planning
  • Offers guided practice for students
  • Focuses your time and energy on planning the best lessons

Three simple feedback techniques for students that you can try in your virtual classroom tomorrow!

Leave some feedback of your own in the comments below, and share your top tips for providing student feedback online.

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