Using Descriptive Feedback To Update Our Approach To Descriptive Feedback

At the end of March, my school’s superintendent visited for her annual S.I.P. (School Improvement Plan) visited. Since we’re scheduled for a Self-Assessment Visit this year too — at the end of May — the superintendent offered some very specific overall feedback to the principal and vice principal after touring all of the classrooms in the school. This feedback was shared with the staff at our last staff meeting.

As a school, one of the things that we’re looking at is ways to offer descriptive feedback to students, and ways that students can offer descriptive feedback to each other as well as reflect on their own learning goals. One thing that was mentioned during our staff meeting is that during our Self-Assessment Visit, students may be asked where they can find this descriptive feedback and where they can look to read more about their learning goals. This got me thinking.

Today I told my students about the upcoming Self-Assessment Visit, and I asked the students the questions that came up during our staff meeting. It was interesting to hear what they had to say. Students said that they could look in the Livescribe Pen notebooks for this information. They said that they could look on their blog posts for descriptive feedback. They said that they could read this information on the bulletin boards as well. Many also said that they knew this information because of the many discussions we’ve had about learning goals.

I explained to the students that as a result of the descriptive feedback offered during our S.I.P. visit, I was going to give them another place to look for their learning goals — where they could be in charge of setting their own goals as well. I showed the students a sheet that I created after our S.I.P. visit. Then students got into small groups and brainstormed ideas for the different sections on the sheet. We discussed some of these ideas before the students went off to complete their own self-reflection for the week.

The plan is that at the end of next week, the students will write on a sticky note how they addressed their goal(s), and where they’re at now. They can then modify their goal(s) based on their achievements. As they go to the different literacy centres during the week, they will keep their goal(s) in mind. I was so pleased with what the students wrote. It was clear that the weeks of students offering oral descriptive feedback to each other had a huge impact on students reflecting on their own work as well.

Yes, sometimes I asked students questions about how they would achieve their goals. I pushed them to think of specific examples of what they could do, and I got them to write down their thoughts, so that they can refer to them throughout the week. All of the ideas and all of the wording are their own though, and the students are very excited to look back at their goal(s) next week and start working on ways that they can do even better. Students also like that they can keep these sheets in their grey work folder, where they can easily access them to share with others as well as refer to when needed.

On a completely different note, the students liked to see today that even teachers can receive descriptive feedback, and that they can look at ways to improve too. Now the class knows that we’re all working at getting better together.

In my attempt to continue to change here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach to descriptive feedback. What do you like about it? How would you make it better? Where do your students look for their descriptive feedback, and how do you ensure that they use it too? Thanks for your help with this!


6 thoughts on “Using Descriptive Feedback To Update Our Approach To Descriptive Feedback

  1. Aviva, I am so not where you are with descriptive feedback and I just want to let you know that it is inspiring for me to see what you are doing here. It is such a powerful tool, which I know you are seeing every day as your students continue to surprise you in the most wonderful ways. I very much appreciate you taking the time to write about your learning. I am so sorry that I can not really add to this post but I have certainly learned and will continue to learn from it. Karen

    • Thanks for the comment, Karen! I’m glad you found this post useful. Truthfully I’ve never been at this point before with descriptive feedback, but our school-wide focus on it has changed me. It’s great to see how powerful descriptive feedback can be for students. Now all of my students realize that we can celebrate our individual strengths, but also, look at ways to improve. It’s great that students are receptive to these suggestions as well. As you do more with descriptive feedback, I’d love to hear more about how it goes.

      Thanks again!

      • Yes it is amazing. The more I think about it my students do offer one another descriptive feedback particularly when we have Reader’s Chair, or Writer’s Share. We have moved way beyond the “I like the story” to “I like the way your voice was loud enough so that I could hear you read the story”. In one on one conferences I am also giving descriptive feedback and we are coming up with goals, and ways to achieve them. So it’s coming, but it still has a long way to go. As I’ve said several times this week (or maybe it’s more like since I joined Twitter in late July), the more I learn, the less I know. 🙂 Karen

        • I love the quote at the bottom of your comment — it’s so true, Karen, and I feel the same way too! 🙂 And I love your examples of descriptive feedback. Both help students improve, and this is what excites me about descriptive feedback the most!


  2. Hello Aviva,
    I really enjoyed reading your post about descriptive feedback. One thing that we do with ours is to collect it, then make a record of it to share with parents. We use sticky notes in the shapes of stars (what they did well) and arrows (next steps) for descriptive feedback from teachers. They collect the stars and arrows in the organizing tool for that specific subject (writing folder for written work, math journal for math feedback, language book for reading responses, etc.) after jotting down the content on a chart to be sent home to share with parents.
    Your awesome ideas got me thinking…..I’ve recently started using Edmodo. I think I will “assign” them the task of reflecting on their current Learning Skills goal, using your worksheet ideas. I could also get them to share their stars and arrows on Edmodo with parents, since there is a way of inviting parents to join our Edmodo group (haven’t fully explored it yet). I will also show your post to my Grade 4 students. I think they will be blown away (and hopefully inspired) by the incredible thinking of your 1’s and 2’s. Thanks SO much for sharing! I’M definitely inspired!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Marie! I’m glad that you found the post helpful, and that you’re going to try something similar using your Edmodo group. What a great idea!

      I really like your stars and arrows idea too! We talk a lot about stars and wishes, so this would definitely align. I’m thinking about how I could modify this plan for my Grade 1 and 2 students. Thanks for getting me thinking as well!


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