The Power of Feedback and Austin's Butterfly

As educators, we know that feedback is a powerful teaching tool.

But alas, time constraints often limit the depth of feedback teachers can offer each student. So, how can we maximise the power of feedback within our busy classrooms?

Take the story of Austin and his butterfly drawing, shared as an intriguing six-minute video here ( Austin, a Grade 1 student, was required to do a scientific drawing of a tiger swallowtail butterfly. The first drawing was typical of a Grade 1 student; it looked like a butterfly but lacked the precise detail.

However, through peer and teacher feedback Austin completed six drafts, improving his drawing each time. As you can see in the video, he produced an astonishing final drawing.

Austin’s experience is a reminder of the power of feedback through the formative assessment stage. But how can we improve this process so that our students are achieving results more quickly and confidently?

Here’s how in four easy steps. 

itc publications’ believes the answer is for teachers to scaffold the assessment clearly so that the student knows exactly what the task is and how to tackle it. This enables the student to create a strong first draft and for the teacher to give targeted and technical feedback straight away.

To enable a student to achieve great work from the get-go, itc publications recommends the following process, known as our “Thinking Skills – Four Steps to Success” model.

  1. Identify the Task Verb

The students must be able to easily identify the task verb(s) on the assessment sheet, such as ‘compare’, ‘discuss’ or ‘justify’.

  1. Understand the Task Verb

Ensure you explain to students the exact definition of the task verb(s). For example, if the task verb is ‘compare’, this means students must look at the way two things are both similar and different.

  1. Use an Appropriate Thinking Tool

Offer students an appropriate thinking tool so that students can organise their research data and thoughts. This will ensure they are on track!

  1. Use the Appropriate Language

For ‘compare’, you would expect students to use the following type of language:

  • There are many ways in which…and…are similar
  • An obvious difference between…

Check out our Four Steps to Success model in our supporting resources.

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