Practitioner Highlight Series: Rapid Cycle Feedback

Educator: Mike Mohammad
District: School District of Elmbrook
School: Brookfield Central High School

To learn more about the elements highlighted in this post, click the links below:
Focus Element: Rapid Cycle Feedback

Additional Elements: 
Learner Voice Infused, Learning Aligned Technology  

How are you incorporating the selected element in your classroom?
Student feedback is meant to drive instruction. The problem many educators face is the ability to collect data and provide meaningful feedback in timeframes that are fast enough to allow instruction to be flexible and personalized. That’s where technology has come into playing a big role in making rapid cycle feedback a reality in my classroom. Technology can provide students rapid feedback in terms of online practice questions that students can complete and receive immediate feedback in terms of what they have gotten correct and incorrect. These problems sets can even be built to include remediations such as linking students out to readings and videos to review the content. I am using these types of practice problem sets and incorporating them into our Learning Management System.

My personal favorite feedback tool is one called Pear Deck. There are other technologies similar to it, but it is the best for my needs. Pear Deck allows all students to answer questions using any web enabled device. In real time, the instructor can see individual student responses and the class response as a whole. I tend to use this in two types of situations.  The first is when I am giving large group instruction.  As I introduce new content, I will pose a question to see check understanding as students are being introduced to new content. This allows me to tailor instruction to the learning curve of the class and also identify individuals who may need extra time or identify individuals who already get it and could serve as peer instructors to help others.

 The other way in which I use Pear Deck is to check understanding a couple of days after the initial instruction has occurred. In legacy classrooms, this takes the form of a paper and pencil quiz. With Pear Deck, students can get immediate feedback on errors made only moments earlier and address misconceptions immediately. While this feedback helps learners pinpoint areas of weakness, the teacher also is able to identify areas where learners are doing well and areas where instruction has failed to varying degrees.

Rapid cycle feedback is essential for learners to set informed goals and monitor progress towards those goals accurately. When feedback isn’t timely it doesn’t inform and it loses its relevance to both learners and instructors.

How has implementing this element improved your practice?
In a legacy classroom, time is a fixed variable. The time devoted to learning a topic is set by the calendar. We know the summative assessment is Wednesday because that’s what the course timeline dictates. In a personalized learning environment, time is flexible. All students are asked to progress towards mastery. If time isn’t fixed, how do we know when we are ready to move on? Rapid cycle feedback has been key in helping me determine when students have progressed towards a point that they are ready to demonstrate mastery in the form of a summative assessment.

As a part of designing large group instruction, I put in questions to check understanding. This has forced me to determine what types of questions are essential to the concept. What types of questions would help build basic understandings and what types of questions require more advanced application of content. Thinking about content delivery as a series of questions that continue to dig deeper has helped me reframe the progress of learning.

In looking at the responses of students in real time, I learn about my students while I’m delivering content. I see where they are struggling with concepts and learn who are fast processors and who needs a little more time. Just because a student doesn’t raise her hand doesn’t mean she doesn’t know the answer. Pear Deck has proven this to me time and again.  It has given voice to all of my students.

How has implementing this element helped your learners?
Simply put, rapid cycle feedback in the form of Pear Deck is the number one thing my students say helps them learn.

This feedback makes lecture an active process rather than passive. After a traditional lecture, students may be assigned a problem set to practice what they have just been taught. It won’t be until they have submitted these practice problems that they will be able to recognize misunderstandings. In an interactive lecture, students have had the opportunity to practice with concepts as they are introduced. Learners have the opportunity to fail and learn from those failures in a safe environment. In an interactive lecture, students are allowed to discuss problems with their classmates. So, it’s not simply the teacher instructing. Peers are able to discuss and practice.

An interactive lesson teaches every student that they have a voice. Although they don’t have to raise their hand, they will be heard. Some students may be hesitant to respond verbally to a question the instructor poses even if they know the answer. An interactive lecture allows them to get the positive feedback they deserve. The recognition that would not have been there otherwise. If student names are tied to the responses so the teacher can see them, it allows the teacher to recognize and celebrate this voice in appropriate ways whether it be publically or one-on-one.

Ultimately, rapid cycle feedback is there to drive instruction. With it, students no longer have to pause from the journey to pull out a road map to determine where they are on their journey to objective mastery. They’ve got the power of GPS allowing them to correct themselves as they are in motion. The process of formative assessment and feedback is not seen as a chore by learners in my classroom. They see it as essential to the process of learning.

Want to know more about the Honeycomb Model of personalized learning? Explore our Interactive Honeycomb!


For more information about Mike’s classroom and his personalized learning journey, check out his blog!

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