As a teacher and a trainer, I am often puzzling about how best to provide feedback to students and teachers. The most common way to give feedback is giving a grade, but this is not necessarily the most effective or meaningful. What are the alternatives? Of course, as teachers we are constantly giving some kinds of feedback to students. For example, a student says, “Teacher, what you do yesterday?” And the teacher is faced with a situation in which he can give feedback (about the mistake) or not. When and how teachers give feedback is based on one’s beliefs about learning. What will best help students learn?
However, I’m thinking about more structured, formal, approaches to feedback. There are many options, including checklists, portfolios, short notes, and verbal; also, it could be from peers, self, or the teacher. In the literature, this seems to be what is often referred to as “authentic” (or alternative) assessment. For me, it is basically giving and/or getting feedback in some form other than a grade.
One of the challenges with authentic assessment is that it is not traditional. Thus, many people (teachers and students) are not familiar with it. Often, as is our nature, we tend to fear and/or resist that which is not familiar. This is probably a practical evolutionary trait! In any case, I’d like to say that authentic assessment is valuable and ought not to be feared! I encourage teachers to experiment with it. So, finally, I’m wondering about how you may have experimented with it—what have you done (or experienced) with feedback to help students’ learning and participation, or what have you done that has hindered it?
1. Huerta-Macias, Ana. “Alternative Assessment: Responses to Commonly Asked Questions,” in Methodology in Language Teaching, 2002.
2. O’Malley, J. Michael and Lorraine Valdez Pierce. Authentic Assessment for English Language Learners, 1996.
3. Porter, Larry. “Giving and Receiving Feedback; It Will Never Be Easy, but It Can Be Better,” 1982.
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