Feedback for teachers

Teachers need daily feedback on how well students are learning, to make decisions about "next steps" in the learning process. Many teachers refer to this process as "checking for understanding."

Simple daily ways to "check for understanding" include:
  • white board responses
  • red/yellow/green "traffic light" cups on each desk
  • "ticket out the door"
  • short written summary of the day's learning
  • 3-2-1 cards: 3 new facts, 2 questions, 1 way you can use something from today in the adult world
  • five fingers in front of chest
  • identify similarities and differences

Daily questioning:
Many instructional tasks during class can provide feedback to teachers. The questions you ask can tell you where students are in the learning progression. Make sure to ask a variety of questions that elicit what students know and can do at various levels of thinking:
  • knowledge
  • skills
  • complex concepts and reasoning
  • application of knowledge
  • connections between ideas
  • connections to their world
  • insights and reflections
  • new ideas

Sean's comments:
"Assuming we are using formative assessments to gather information about what individual students are learning, the question becomes 'Now what do we do?' If we just find that some students are learning and some are not, it really isn’t very powerful until we take the next step - I need to change my lesson to help the students who are not learning. Feedback from formative assessments can tell me what the next steps should be, when I analyze what the students know and what they still don't know. This kind of feedback makes me more attentive to the needs of the learner.
This is a large task and is at the very nature of what formative assessment is. It is a longer process than one year or one class and usually benefits from several teachers working together."


A nice description of a teacher who uses formative assessment to change lesson plans is found in our online course on Differentiated Instruction. This is a description from Ben Johnson of how he uses the results of assessments to plan small group focused learning activities.


Task: Choose a current unit plan that you'll teach in the next month or so. Develop methods and questions to find out which students truly understand the topics in the unit ("checks for understanding"). After teaching the unit and using these questions and methods, reflect on which questions gave you insight into students’ understanding. Tell us about how you changed your instruction (subsequent lessons) based on the information you received from students about what they understood.