Fast Feedback, Second Edition

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Let us begin with the premise that people want to be successful. Teachers also want their students to arrive in class ready to learn, finish their assigned work, respect teacher feedback, and leave at the end of the year ready to enter the next level of learning with confidence and success. When we assume goodwill by students, teachers, and leaders, we influence even the most difficult discussions in a positive way.

Of course, grading is only one form of feedback, but it is the form that gets the most attention.

Guskey and Bailey argue that feedback other than grading is actually more influential on student learning. This contention makes sense. Consider, for example, how effective feedback from coaches and music teachers results in encouragement, corrections, and immediate improvement. If a school has an excellent system of feedback but ineffective grading practices, that school undermines many of its own efforts.


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However, if a school is able to implement effective grading practices, it reinforces all of its other educational endeavors. Reconciling Experience and Evidence We are all victims of experience and context, often believing that personal experience is superior to evidence. While students have learned to scoff at medieval superstitions and to value the testing of hypotheses, prevailing discussions in education often remain stubbornly focused on experience rather than evidence. Casual assertions have a way of becoming accepted with insufficient challenge.

Some readers might recall futurists of the s predicting that by the year schools would be paperless and student writing would give way to dictation into voice-recognition systems.

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As we know, neither prediction is close to reality. Educators still endure similar assertions about their profession and about grading policies. Rhetorical certitude, however, is not a substitute for evidence. When considering how to improve grading policies, one of the most important agreements that teachers, parents, students, and school leaders must reach is that evidence should guide their conclusions.

Try an experiment with your colleagues by asking them the following questions.

What, in brief, do you know for sure about teaching, learning, and student achievement? Compare the quantity of responses to the first question to the quantity of responses to the second question. Admitting that what we knew a decade ago in education was imprecise, uncertain, or downright wrong appears to require a rare degree of candor. Now, pose the same questions to an ophthalmologist, climatologist, marine biologist, cardiologist, orthopedic surgeon, or international aid worker.

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These professionals have little difficulty acknowledging that what they know today surpasses what they knew in previous decades. For example, a cardiac surgeon knows that twelve years spent in a surgical residency taught her very little about the powerful effects of behavioral modification on heart patients today. Each time we know—as parents, professionals, craftsmen, musicians, or students—a little bit more about how our work improves and the results we expect, the better our results will be.

Thankfully, the use of evidence in medicine and many other fields has led to meaningful and life-saving reforms McAfee, The elevation of personal preference over evidence is not unique to education but appears to be part of human nature. It seems people prefer the comfort of the familiar over the discomfort of the new, even if evidence supports the latter. That is why the most rational and reasonable people can do irrational and unreasonable things in resisting change Deutschman, However clear the evidence, personal experience remains triumphant in too many discussions of education policy.

Education in particular—a profession that prides itself on progress—is rooted deeply in past convictions. We lay claim to 21st century learning by placing an electronic board at the front of the class, but we lecture as if electricity has not yet been invented. We praise collaboration yet often assess our students in a manner that punishes and berates peer assistance. How can we distinguish experience from evidence?

The most effective way I know is to use the following six levels of evidence. Here are the results that show the difference between these twentyfour schools. Nevertheless, there is an appropriate place for the definitive language of mathematics in our approach to grading. When teachers use a 0 on a one hundred—point scale, they reach a different mathematical result than when they use a 0 on a four-point scale.

These are not matters of conjecture but simple calculation. The first step toward reconciling debate in education, or any other matter of public policy, is for the rhetorical combatants to be. First, we should be willing to agree that grading is a form of feedback. Second, we should be willing to agree that feedback is a very powerful instructional technique—some would say the most powerful—when it comes to influencing student achievement.

The measurement that Hattie uses is effect size, or, simply put, the effectiveness of particular interventions. The impact of an effect size of 0. Therefore, any instructional or leadership initiative must at least pass this threshold. Many factors are statistically significant, as the following list will show.

But statistical significance and practical significance are two different elements. Because of the overwhelming burdens on the time and resources of every school Reeves, a , it makes little sense to invest in An effect size of 1. During the eighteen hours every day that students are not in school, students and families make many decisions that influence learning in significant ways. But how important are these decisions compared to the variables that teachers and school administrators can control? Even small effect sizes can be meaningful, particularly if they are devoted to initiatives that save lives.

For example, Robert Rosenthal and M. Robin DiMatteo demonstrate that the effect size of taking a low dose of aspirin in preventing a heart attack is 0. Fortunately, Hattie answers that question with a resounding affirmative response. He finds a number of teaching and leadership practices that, measured in the synthesis of meta-analyses, are more powerful than personality, home, and demographic factors when considering their impact on student achievement. Examples include teacher-student relationships 0.

Certainly, Hattie is not the first scholar to recognize the importance of feedback on student achievement. We can say that, based on the preponderance of evidence from multiple studies in many cultural settings, feedback is not only more important than most other instructional interventions but is also more important than socioeconomic status, drug use, nutrition, exercise, anxiety, family structure, and a host of other factors that many people claim are overwhelming.

Indeed, when it comes to evaluating the relative impact of what teachers and education leaders do, the combined use of formative evaluation and feedback is the most powerful combination that we have. Hattie also encourages a broadly based view of feedback, including feedback not only from teachers to students but also from teachers to their colleagues.

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We should recall that, as a fundamental. The effectiveness of any recommendation regarding teaching and education leadership depends on the extent to which the professional practices of educators and school leaders have a greater impact on students than factors that are beyond their control. The essential question is, Will this idea have a sufficient impact in helping students overcome any negative influences they face outside of school?

The Evidence—Decision Gap It is therefore mystifying that a strategy with so great an impact on student achievement as feedback remains so controversial and inconsistent. It is as if there was evidence that a common consumer practice created an environmental disaster, but people ignored it and persisted in the destructive practice. Of course, that is hardly a hypothetical example, as our national habits—such as persistent use of bottled water, dependence on gas-guzzling cars, and appetite for junk food—illustrate.

Rather than embrace the evidence and use filtered tap water, take public transportation, and eat fresh vegetables, we often choose the convenient alternatives that are less healthy for our families and the planet. In sum, our greatest challenge is how to transform what we know into action.

An alarming example is the persistent use of retention and corporal punishment. Retention does not encourage work ethic and student responsibility but only creates older, frustrated, and less successful students Hattie, Corporal punishment does not improve behavior but legitimizes violence and increases bullying and student misbehavior Committee on School Health, Nevertheless, politicians from all parties have excoriated social promotion and urged retention in a display of belligerent indifference to the evidence.

More disturbingly,. Similarly, our standards for administrators, board members, and policymakers must be at least as rigorous as those we create for fourth graders. If that statement seems astonishing, then I invite you to obtain a copy of the fourth-grade academic standards for your area and lay beside them the standards that are officially endorsed for policymakers, such as legislators, members of parliament, members of Congress, or other educational authorities.

You can then decide which standards are more demanding.

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Before we consider what quality feedback is, let us be clear about what feedback is not. Feedback is not testing. Distinguishing Feedback From Testing Consider two classrooms, both burdened by large class sizes and students with a wide range of background knowledge and skill levels. Administrators know that the curriculum is delivered because teachers list the instructional objectives on the board and post the details of the lesson plan supporting those objectives next to the door, where visiting leaders can easily inspect them.

In this class, the most important feedback that students and teachers receive is on the annual test administered every spring. This feedback is very detailed, as it determines the success and failure of not only individual students but also the entire school, perhaps the entire school system.

Moreover, external companies have established elaborate statistical formulas that give feedback to individual teachers, measuring the degree to which each teacher is adding value to each student. When comparing students over three years, these analyses conclude that teachers whose students show gains in test scores have added value to their students, whereas teachers whose students do not make such gains have failed to add value.

So ingrained is this sort of analysis that in the United States, one of the conditions states. Equipped with rich literature on the theory and practice of change, educators and school leaders should be fully capable of acknowledging error, evaluating alternatives, testing alternative hypotheses, and drawing conclusions that lead to better results. Instead, personal convictions that are not only antiquated but maybe even dangerous guide decision-making processes.

We can be indignant about the physicians of the 19th century who were unwilling to wash their hands, but when the subject turns to education policies, we sometimes elevate prejudice over evidence. The second class is no less rigorous than the first. Indeed, it can be argued that this class is more rigorous. The teacher provides informal feedback to students every day, and each week students update their learning logs to identify where they are with respect to their learning targets and next steps for moving forward. Students, along with the teacher, are continuously assessing their learning but not with a single standardized test.

Moreover, the teacher in the second class assesses skills that are never tested by the state, including collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication. This teacher is not assessing less but assessing more to prepare students not only for the state test but also for the broader requirements students will encounter in the years ahead. Reconsidering Feedback In her landmark work comparing high- and low-performing nations and high- and low-performing state education systems, Linda DarlingHammond comes to an astonishing and counterintuitive conclusion.

Since the s, the three exemplars she considers— Singapore, South Korea, and Finland—made significant progress according to international education comparisons over the next three decades. Detailed field observations reveal the rich, nuanced feedback that students and teachers receive daily and can apply immediately.

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There is no question that annual tests are important, if by important we mean that decisions involving the lives of students, teachers, and school administrators, along with billions of taxpayer dollars, are influenced by those tests. These successful nations:.