The Power of Implementing a Feedback Cycle

This post is an adapted excerpt from Flash Feedback, my upcoming book from Corwin Literacy.

Me for far too many years.

For years I struggled with the fact that I would spend untold hours scrawling notes and suggestions through each set of student papers only to have the next set of papers feel almost as if my feedback to the previous paper had never been given. Like some endless and highly frustrating Groundhog Day, my students tended to make the same mistakes as I gave them the same responses over and over and over.

I now have a culprit for what was going wrong: I was falling victim to the Forgetting Curve, which is the subject of one of the more popular posts of this blog and can be summed up like this:

We forget nearly everything we encounter only once, with well over 90% evaporating from our minds in a few days.

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Why I’ve Gone Grade-Less

I have always hated grading papers.

It is right up there with watching state-mandated online training modules and filling out our labyrinthian teacher evaluation as one of my least favorite parts of the job.

Before moving on, I want to make it clear though that I don’t mean reading or responding to student work when I say “grading.” As I discussed earlier this year, grading and responding to student work are often used as synonyms, but they are actually highly different tasks. Feedback is the act of giving students information that they can use to grow and move forward; grades, on the other hand, are static markers meant to communicate to the student and others where a student’s skills are right now. And as a teacher, I have always felt much more comfortable with helping students chart a path forward than I have with rating them.

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What Makes Writing Authentic?

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Last spring, during my month spent blogging about teaching the essay, a teacher asked me a question that I had no ready answer for:


It is one thing to have students write narratives that they share with others or practice argumentation through writing letters to real people, but how can teachers make essays about books in their classes authentic?


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