Effective Feedback

SpecEdWe have been talking a lot about how to continually check for understanding as you are instructing.  Use of Popsicle sticks, wipe off paddles, response cards, and choral responses are just a few of the ideas that have already been shared in our past blogs. Effective Feedback is the last part of Checking for Understanding and a step that is necessary for solidifying the learning for all students. Three types of Effective Feedback are:  Echo, Elaborate, and Explain.

Use Echo when the student response is correct. By restating what the student says, you are providing affirmation that the information is correct. For example, “That’s right Benjamin, the area of a triangle is ½ b x h.”

Use Elaborate when the student is tentative in their response or only has the answer partially correct. This is an opportunity for the teacher to elaborate on the response or paraphrase in order to reinforce what the correct answer is.  You want the student who responded, and all of the other students in the classroom, to hear the correct/more elaborate response. For example, if you are studying the first amendment and ask, “Alice, can you describe one of the rights we learned about that is in the First Amendment?”

Alice hems and haws a bit and responds, “Um, people have a right to gather?” Instead of being confident of her response, her intonation suggests that she unsure. In your mind you realize that she has it basically correct.  However, you need to expand and elaborate on her answer to solidify the information for her, and others like her. who may still be unsure.

You would then turn directly to Alice and say, “Yes, Alice, freedom of assembly is one of the rights guaranteed by the first amendment.” Then, as the teacher, you turn to the class and elaborate by adding, “The United States Constitution explicitly provides for ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Finally, Re-Explain when students cannot answer or their answers are incorrect.  If a student cannot answer the checking for understanding questions, that is your first ‘red flag’ that you may have to re-teach.  The student may not understand or is confused, so you may give a few cues or prompts. If the student still cannot answer, ask the student to listen carefully because you are going to come back and ask them the same question again.

Now, choose a second non-volunteer in the classroom to respond to your question.  If the second student has the correct response, echo it as you would usually do, and possibly elaborate or paraphrase in order to reinforce the answer.  Then, go back to the first student and ask the same question.  The information has just been refreshed and reinforced by your echoing and elaboration.  The student should be able to answer it successfully now.

If the second student also does not know how to respond, or answers incorrectly, STOP and re-teach. You must go over the material again. Once this is done, continue to check for understanding in order to be assured that the entire class has a good grasp of the material or concept.

Highly effective teachers continually check for understanding and give feedback in order to make sure they know that ALL students in their classroom are learning and understanding.  If you have a Co-Teacher or a Teacher Assistant in your room, you may wish to have them gather some baseline data on how often you use Echo, Elaborate, and Explain.  With those three data points in mind, focus on the skill of giving intentional feedback to your students and see if you can increase the number of times you use them.

Write back and give us feedback.  How did you do?

Siobhan O’Hora
Special Education School Improvement Specialist

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