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5 Feedback Methods for the Gradeless (or Any) Classroom

The absence of a letter grade is filled by the richness of feedback that allows students to see a clearer learning path.

By Lani Aquino

Going gradeless can conjure up an image of a lawless classroom where there is no rhyme nor reason within its functioning because the accountability factor of a letter or point total has been removed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In classrooms where teachers have removed the grading endpoint, students are able to blossom and take their learning to new levels. These student-centered learning environments are rich in feedback because feedback drives the personal growth that isn’t fostered in the same manner when a traditional grading system is present.

When feedback and a letter grade go hand-in-hand, that letter grade will always win. This doesn’t mean that teachers still using a grading scale shouldn’t offer feedback; it just means that the feedback is less likely to be ingrained and utilized because it is overshadowed by a letter or point value. To truly have an impact on learning, feedback needs to stand alone and be offered frequently. These 5 methods for sharing feedback with students can easily be utilized in any classroom, and they are pivotal in guiding the learning that occurs in a gradeless one.

  1. Digital Portfolios- The use of digital portfolios is a great way to allow students to visualize their personal growth and offer them easily retrievable feedback to maximize it. Seeing their work as a collective and having accessibility to prior comments and feedback as they move forward can be key in their growth as learners. With platforms like SeeSaw or a variety of other digital portfolio apps, teachers can find the right fit for students, teachers, and parents that can allow learning rather than grading to be in the spotlight.
  2. One-on-One Conferencing- Nothing can replace a good old-fashioned conversation. When teachers make the time to talk with students about their work and there’s no ball to be dropped when the big grade reveal comes, students are more likely to be in-tune to what is being shared. It is in these personalized conversations that a lot can be gleaned through body language and expression on both sides. Teachers should always work to find time to check in with individuals, but it’s also important to create a method for students to sign up for conference times when they feel a need.
  3. Audio Files- Typing or writing what a teacher really wants to provide for feedback can be quite laborious, but putting all those written thoughts into words can be much less time consuming. By recording and sharing audio files with students, teachers are able to offer feedback in an easily accessible fashion that can take some of the I wonder what he meant by this. out of the equation. Sarah Brown Wessling shares her method for numbering areas of focus on students’ papers and then recording a comment stream. With the plethora of voice recording apps available, teachers can easily find one to best fit their needs and share some personalized commentary with students. Some digital portfolios and documents often have these audio capabilities built right into the provided programs.
  4. Digital Documents- Not all classrooms have a full digital portfolio system in place, but there are still some great feedback capabilities when digital documents are used. When digital document applications like Google Docs are used, teachers, parents, peers, etc. can offer real-time feedback on shared documents. The timeliness factor with the ability to receive and apply feedback suggestions at the work-in-progress stage offers a streamlining to the learning process that has a positive impact.
  5. Peer Feedback- Feedback through the lens of a peer can be a powerful tool for both the giver and the receiver. The process of peer feedback requires the reviewer to reference any standards or guidelines being utilized, view the piece with those guidelines in mind, and pinpoint areas in need of more clarity or restructuring. As reviewers study the work of another, they are able to see varying model papers/projects that are utilizing similar criterion to their own pieces. This then offers the reviewer valuable insight that can be applied to their own work. As the receivers of peer feedback, students are able to hear comments and suggestions in a voice that is likely more similar to their own and can easily apply this likeminded advice.

Feedback is a powerful tool to utilize in any classroom setting. When said feedback is utilized in a gradeless classroom, students are more receptive to the guidance and suggestions shared because their attentions are solely focused on the feedback as opposed to the letter grade or point value that accompanies it. Having a variety of methods for providing feedback means that a rich and supportive learning environment is being provided where student growth and success can take the limelight.

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