Mark Barnes

TEAC

South Euclid, OH

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 6 Years ago
  • 6.8k

How narrative feedback can crush the ABCs

Real education reform consists of change in the classroom, rather than more high stakes testing, vouchers and merit pay. A Results Only Learning Environment emphasizes student-centered, project-based methods that embrace autonomy and self-evaluation. There's no room for number or letter grades in a ROLE. Narrative feedback drives assessment and mastery learning.

This video demonstrate how narrative feedback works. How can you work narrative feedback into your own class?

Mark's new book, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom is available in the ASCD bookstore here.



14 Comments

1000 Characters Remaining

JD

Janet_Davis

02 Sep 11, 03:52 AM

These are the kinds of reforms that will make a transformation in education.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

21 Jul 11, 02:51 PM

Michele, thanks for you comment and insightful question. 160-190 students is certainly a huge amount, which can make narrative feedback daunting. My suggestion would be to do several things. First, I would provide as much verbal feedback as possible, especially on smaller tasks. Teachers feel compelled to always give students something, which isn't necessary. Meaningful verbal feedback can be just as effective as written for some activities.

Second, consider creating some well-designed year-long projects, in which feedback is ongoing. If you spend less time creating numerous activities, assessments and lessons, you can spend more time to give feedback, which is far more helpful to students.

Finally, find easy ways to provide feedback -- a web site, blog, classroom message board, Twitter, etc. I spend many hours on student web sites and on our online grade book, writing a few specific sentences for students throughout the course of a grading period. Grab 45 minutes one day on weekends, 20 minutes of a plan period, and minutes here and there during "down time" in class to write and respond to feedback.

You and your students will love the results.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

MB

Michele_Ben

21 Jul 11, 12:15 PM

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and insights. I also feel that number grades do little to promote learning and mastery. Although I understand your case against rubrics, I feel that when constructed properly and used wisely, they can accomplish a lot of what you do with narrative feedback. I generally teach 160-190 pupils a year in public school ELF classes in Israel. We have 5 hours of class a week. Giving constant, constructiive narrative feedback in the manner you describe would probably take up every free moment I have. I do write comments on every rubric used to check a task and allow for corrections before assingning the number grade required by my school. Although we don't have easily accessible web technology yet, your ideas of using the internet like this is intriguing and I will explore ways to incorporate it into my work with my pupils. If you have any ideas on how to manage giving extensive, ongoing narrative feedback to the number of pupils I teach, please share!
Thanks,
Michele
NA

100 Characters Remaining

AF

Adam_Fachler

17 Jul 11, 08:55 AM

Mark,
I suppose that if student's have a clear idea of what constitutes quality (be it through a rubric, guidelines, and/or an exceptional model), they can benchmark their efforts and reflect meaningfully. I am totally intrigued by this concept of "well-designed year-long projects" and even the journal you show in the webinar where you have a student responding to feedback several months later. When you develop structures that get students to care about a product so far down the road, you have transferred ownership for learning in a way that grades cannot and will never achieve. I, too, found Pink's work transformative, and it's wonderful to see you continuing to refine your practice in its ethos. I look forward to the ROLE book.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

17 Jul 11, 08:15 AM

Adam, thanks for the kind words and for your insight. Although I don't measure my students against a rubric, I use activity and project guidelines and models, which some might say is similar to a rubric. The difference, I feel, is that the guidelines and models are easier to understand for students, who don't always understand the levels of a rubric, which is, in most cases, far too subjective anyway. So, if I show my students what excellent work looks like and provide them with specific instruction for ways to demonstrate mastery (a term I do like, because it's something we all want), my feedback is based on these things.

So, when a student completes part of an ongoing project, I review it. If I was looking for a fictional character to write a diary entry that specifies something about the time in which the character lived, I can easily read this part of the project, and provide specific feedback on how it was done. My feedback may send the student back to a model, housed on my classroom web site, or it may send her back to research, where she may find more details about the time in history that I'm looking to learn about.

With regard to time, narrative feedback takes much longer than number and letter grades. I give feedback of some sort daily, and I average 100 students per year (remember, verbal feedback counts and takes less time than written). Sometimes the feedback is short, and it's the kind that I can copy and paste into multiple students' grade book, because they did things the same way. Also, I spend much more time on feedback than I do on lesson planning and activity creation. Well-designed year-long projects take care of most of the learning outcomes. There's much more about this in my forthcoming book, ROLE Reversal.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

AF

Adam_Fachler

16 Jul 11, 06:45 PM

Mark,
Thank you for this quick lesson on the power of narrative feedback. I have seen firsthand the effects of a thoughtful, well-crafted note to a student who needs it.

Two questions:
If not a rubric, against what is the quality of student work measured? As teachers, I'm sure we've intuited many of the characteristics of, say, strong writing while students do not have as clear a vision for what constitutes quality work or mastery of content (a term I grow more and more uncomfortable with as it seems to imply the end of the learning process). Also, if a teacher identifies that students do not understand the rubric, I think the logical next step is to help them understand it by facilitating opportunities to rewrite the rubric in their own words and use it frequently to assess their own work and the work of their peers. Without a rubric to ground our feedback, I have found that my feedback to students is less focused.

Second, while this type of feedback is clearly more helpful to students than simplistic letter grades and/or scores out of 100, it is considerably more time consuming. How many times per week would you suggest that students receive this more thorough type of feedback?
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

15 Jul 11, 05:09 PM

Alan, thanks for your thoughts. I love the "Give a man a fish. . ." proverb. I drive my students crazy with it.

The book is currently being reviewed for publication. Hope to know more before August. I'll share the outcome here, on my ROLE Reversal blog and on Twitter: @markbarnes19.

Thanks again for your support.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

AT

Alan_Thompson

15 Jul 11, 04:10 PM

Good Afternoon Mark, I find your narrative feedback approach intriguing and exciting. Being a believer in Alfie Kohn’s work, I was pleased to see this pop up as a new way to reinforce actual learning.

When does your book come out? Is there a pre-sale list? Point me in the right direction.

To Lorie, the reason the students are doing just enough to pass is because that is all they have to do to succeed in the school format. Years of their schooling (conditioning) hasn’t allowed them to be self motivated learners. So far, there hasn’t been any reason to learn the skills for themselves (intrinsicly), but rather to work for a grade (extrinsicly). In their conditioned minds if they get an A, or even a passing grade, they think, “Why work anymore.”

I agree with Mark, if we remove the grades, students will naturally become motivated to master the skills. It will also reinforce reflective and problem solving in how to complete a task. In doing these steps they will find intrinsic value in their accomplishments, which will motivate them for a lifetime.

If you give a man a fish he will have a nice meal
If you teach a man to fish…
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

15 Jul 11, 11:59 AM

Lori, thanks for these very legitimate concerns. Although I'll answer as much as possible here, my forthcoming book, ROLE Reversal, will be a valuable asset for thoroughly speaking to your concerns (shameless plug, I realize).

First, I never assign a number grade, and I'd advise anyone who is doing so to stop. My experience teaching in a ROLE indicates that very few students will do "just enough to pass." The ROLE is built on year-long projects that provide students with a wide variety of choices in how to demonstrate their own learning. Students who are typically less-than-motivated to perform will find something of interest in a well-designed project that allows them to use Web 2.0, social media and other powerful tools to demonstrate learning. Remember, most students have never been given the kind of autonomy the ROLE provides.

Second, when you give students the power of self-evaluation, they will soon develop a thirst for learning, because the consistent punishment they're accustomed to receiving from number and letter grades is gone. Emphasize to them that all you care about is that they learn, that they become thinkers, explorers. When number and letter grades disappear, your "low students" motivation will suddenly rise to the top.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

LB

Lori_Broady

15 Jul 11, 11:41 AM

I am interested in seeing how kids that are not doing "A" work self evalute and how to assign a number grade to those students. The other concern I have that I would like to hear your feedback on is what to do with those students who are not self motivated to work towards the improved grade and how to assess them. Unfortunately I have kids that want to do "just enough to pass", which is frustrating as a teacher.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

14 Jul 11, 09:04 PM

Avishur, you make some compelling points. I appreciate your review of the video and your feedback. The student who completes the self-evaluation to which you refer says much more than she deserves an A for completing the work. Although completion is important, what you don't mention is that she also reports that I said that she made necessary changes after my feedback. This is what proves mastery learning, whether the student uses the word, or not.

The adjectives you mention are also only parts of feedback. Some feedback begins with, "You've done excellent work here." However, those comments are followed by the kinds of specific feedback you saw earlier in the video and later on the online grade book. Our views of "good" are always the same, because we discuss how to complete activities and projects in ways that demonstrate excellence.

Thanks again for your feedback.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

MA

Maccabee_Avishur

14 Jul 11, 03:43 PM

I found three things revealing in the student's reasoning for why she deserved an "A." First, the student argued that she deserved an A for doing all the work. In other words, completion equals mastery in her mind. I don't think this is actually the case, though. Second, the student never mentioned the word "mastery" or any of its synonyms. I wonder if she understands that her learning has been geared towards mastering the lessons her teacher has helped her learn. Third, I found that the adjectives that the student used to describe the teacher's feedback were arbitrary, unquantifiable adjectives like "excellent," "solid," and "good." What do those words mean? Her teacher's view of good might actually differ from the student's. In addition, there may be a difference between good and excellent in the teacher's view, but the student has conflated all the terms. Thoughts?
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Mark_Barnes

13 Jul 11, 12:22 PM

Thanks for sharing this, Leslie.
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Leslie_Welch

13 Jul 11, 11:55 AM

Mark- Excellent Vlog! I shared it with our Facebook audience this morning. Click here to see the comments: http://www.facebook.com/ascd.org. ~Leslie
NA

100 Characters Remaining

Back To Top