Students learn to give feedback with a growth mindset

Yesterday Algebra’s Friend introduced me to a new professional development blog Read…Chat…Reflect…Learn! While I enjoy reading blogs for lesson ideas, I also love reading journal and magazine articles, books, research studies, etc. as another way to stay current. I’m glad I found this blog and I’m thrilled to see that it’s in its infancy, only because it makes me feel that I haven’t missed out on too much!

The current topic is feedback. The article for discussion was How Am I Doing? It offered a good overview, but what was missing was how to provide feedback using a growth mindset. This excerpt, Types of Feedback and Their Purposes,  gives clear examples. One type of feedback I tend to focus on is descriptive as opposed to judgmental feedback.

When examining student work for feedback I’ve collected their work in progress, and provided descriptive feedback. I won’t kid you. It’s time consuming. But an idea was floating in my head. What if I taught students to give each other feedback with a growth mindset?  I don’t want you to think I am shirking my responsibilities, but could math students offer feedback similar to students who participate in peer editing compositions?

After reading Algebra’s Friend post I thought I would give it a try. Yesterday and today I showed my students this Would You Rather problem. They were to work in groups of four to solve.

After the groups worked for about 10-15 minutes, I collected their work, redistributed them to different groups and asked the new group to provide feedback. Here’s an example:


Kids being kids, their feedback was somewhat judgmental and not of a growth mindset. Had they rephrased their wording to questions such as, “How could labeling help explain your thinking?” or a statement such as “The final answer is not clear,” would definitely put them on the track towards feedback with a growth mindset.

Doing this activity in groups made it quite manageable as only six responses were being critiqued. While I monitored each group I asked them what questions they had about the other group’s work. I also asked them to be positive with their feedback. Each problem was circulated twice. Doing so also gave groups the opportunity to see how others approached the problem and perhaps revamp their thinking.

Here’s how the above group implemented the feedback:



The next time I see them we’ll continue the conversation of how to offer feedback with a growth mindset. With more practice they’ll get better at it.

I should have thought of this at the start of the year.





Connecting the Pieces: Open Source, Big Data, and the Origins of the Common [sic] Core [sic]

I must admit as a middle school math teacher I drank the kool aid. With the passage of time I’ve now come to view the Common Core as Obama’s answer to stimulating the economy ( i.e. edtech start ups peddling their wares). This thoughtful prologue needs to be shared. It may be long but not one word is wasted.

Bob Shepherd | Praxis

800px-Japanese_camera_for_surveillance_2How educational publishers PLAYED and PWNED a nation’s educrats and politicians

(A term from the gaming world, pwned, from owned, is a neologism meaning “achieved total control and/or domination over.” If an opponent uses you, against your better interests, to achieve his or her own objectives, or if you are obliterated within seconds of the beginning of game play, then you have been pwned.)

The last state has now pulled out of the proposed national database of student responses and scores. Those who were horrified at the prospect of such a privately held, Orwellian Total Information Awareness system for K-12 public school education, one that would have served as a de facto checkpoint and censor librorum for curricula, are cheering.

But don’t think for a moment that Big Data has been beaten. I am going to explain why. I hope that you will take the effort to…

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Relying on spring break for more practice

I hate giving homework over break, but this time I had to do it.

Before spring break I gave my pre-algebra students an assessment on rate of change, slope-intercept, etc.  The results were disastrous. Students could calculate the slope, but many had difficulty graphing. Some were lost when converting the standard form of a line into slope-intercept form. I have to take most of the blame. I thought they were ready, but they weren’t. If you ask me why I thought they were ready the only response I could give you is, “Because we covered it in class.” In hindsight, I was an idiot. Not only did the kids check out before spring break I did too. In my haste to squeeze in an assessment I didn’t provide enough practice opportunities. Plus my in class checks for understanding had been limited.

I collected the assessment and began to grade the first page of the test. I was livid. They should have known the concepts, or so I thought. The following day, the day before break, I was going to be absent–out of the building attending a social studies workshop on Rwanda 20 years later. I couldn’t take a chance on the sub reteaching the concepts so I created a screencast for the sub to show in class. In it I walked through similar problems from the test. Their homework was to rework every problem. I also made a practice packet for them to complete over break.

Additionally I wanted to communicate the situation to the parents. So I emailed them a copy of the packet along with the answer key as well as the YouTube link to the test corrections screencast. I explained that I may haven been too hasty in trying to get an assessment in before break and appreciated their support. I closed with, “I hope this homework won’t be too much of a nuisance over break.”

I know I was gambling here. Not so much if the homework and test corrections would be completed, but if it would be completed correctly. I had no doubt if the students watched the video, stopped, and replayed when making corrections they would be successful. Would they use it? I can’t control that. That’s why I’m not a fan of a flipped classroom where the essential learning is done at home.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending. Over break I watched the YouTube hit counter increase from zero hits to 23 hits. When I saw the students on Tuesday we went over the test corrections and some of the homework problems. No major issues. I gave the kids an additional practice test to work on in class plus their homework was to make and take their own practice test creating similar problems of each type.

When they assessed on Thursday the results were soooo much better. Only five students didn’t quite meet the standard, earning 80-85%. The practice tests they made didn’t include all problem types.

The rest earned some form of an A and they took the time to create a thorough practice test.

My spring fever caused this. Don’t ask me where I went over break. I didn’t go anywhere.