My household is a place where food is important (as you can probably attest by my girth). Each weekend, we plan a menu for the upcoming week. Based upon that menu, we prepare a list of grocery needs. I write the grocery list down, and many times I write the list based upon departments and locations within the store, so that I know my path before I enter the store. Sometimes if we have some late additions to the list, I will use a highlighter to group the item with other like items so that I purchase what is needed.
Some may think our system is a little too much, but it is quite effective. When I go to the store, I know exactly what I need to purchase in order to meet the meal goals we have established for the week. Robert Marzano might be proud of me. In his book Classroom Instruction That Works, he identifies “setting objectives and providing feedback” as a high-yield strategy that has the potential to produce an effect size of .61. Below are a few points of interest from the book:
- Instructional goals narrow what the students should focus on. Just like I need to focus on only what I need to cook my dinners in the week, students need to focus on what is important in the content area at that time.
- Instructional goals should not be too specific. We want students to master the content, but we don’t want to be too specific so that students don’t think that there is only one path to mastery – the one articulated by the teacher. They need some flexibility to employ their strengths to reach content goals.
- Students should be encouraged to personalize goals. Again, this allows for students to bring their individual strengths to the fore while pursuing content mastery.
- Feedback should be timely. Timely feedback provides the greatest opportunity for student learning.
- Feedback should be specific to a criterion. A general “good job” on a paper doesn’t help students know how to improve. Make sure your feedback is clear and targeted.
- Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback. Allow students to reflect on their work and how it moves them toward mastery. Reflection sessions can be built into assignment timelines. You may find that students are a little more tough on themselves than you might be.
As you prepare for the next few weeks, think about ways that you can help students set and meet meaningful learning objectives, and think about ways you can be more timely and specific in your feedback. You and your students will be glad you did!