Chapter 4: Improvement Focus vs. Grade Focus
Let's talk about feedback, folks.
This chapter prompted a lot of self-reflection. How do I give feedback to my kids? What verb tense do I use when I give feedback? Who can provide my students with feedback? What do I hope to achieve when teaching a lesson? Most importantly: what is my goal for my students?
That last one, I can answer easily: my goal is to guide my students to become lifelong, self-propelled learners. Feedback is such an important part of this objective- this is how we can help our students learn from their mistakes, and learn how to learn. With that in mind, let's dive into it: how can an improvement-focused classroom help your students become self-propelled learners.
. If your schooling experience is anything like mine, you may remember studying (cramming) for an exam, memorizing key terms and dates only to regurgitate them on the test- and a week later, you would have forgotten everything. From a teacher's perspective, that's a nightmare. From a student's perspective, that's a pain in the butt. It's useless for both teacher and students.
Now, let's learn about the remedy for that nonsense. An improvement-focused classroom is one that focus on growth, and progress. There is no "end" to learning, and there is no limit on learning. There is always room to improve.
Here are some characteristics of the improvement-focused classroom:
When a class's focus shifts from results to process, feedback becomes increasingly important. If you seek to help your students grow at every opportunity, you need to be providing them with frequent feedback. If you really want to step up your game, teaching your students how to give feedback will be a game-changer. It will both free you up to work with other students (finally, you won't be the only person your students can turn to) and your students will get used to receiving feedback form different voices.
By focusing on the process of learning, you can help your students make connections that may have otherwise been overlooked. As we know, the more connections your students can make, the more relevant learning will be to them, and the more it will stick.
some final thoughts...
I am sure the classroom environment described above is what every teacher dreams of. In the real world however, we have deadlines, report cards, government testing and all the rest of that kerfuffle. It's important to acknowledge that the road to an improvement-focused classroom may not be easy. But just because something is difficult, it doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
I also think that changing your focus from grades to improvement is an investment. It may be difficult at first to convert your students (and parents, and colleagues, ...) but let's imagine a world where teachers changed their focus. Let's imagine what type of students that would produce. Isn't that worth it?
I'll end with this important saying, from one of my favourite professors.
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