Giving feedback

As promised, this is Part II of last week's post when we shook up behaviorism.  If you missed that post, click here.  How did the three types of responses work with your students (or loved ones)?  I'd love to hear about them; use the "comments" window at very bottom of the post to share your experience(s).  Like always, leaving comments is simple stuff - no password or user name required.  

Today's ideas will be short and simple - how to give feedback to students (kids, colleagues, loved ones and assorted others) in tactful, respectful, effective and non-behaviorist ways. 

I think of "contrast" when I consider these suggestions.  "Two sides of the same coin," as the idiom goes.....

Feedback Idea #1:  Stars and Wishes
When offering feedback to students, share their "stars" and your "wishes."  Stars are highlights of their best work or behavior.  Wishes are thoughtful suggestions how to improve.  Sometimes, I have peers give each other stars and wishes.  I usually "train" them first by granting me stars and wishes.  When they are savvy at that, I have them give stars and wishes to each other.  Students seem to especially like feedback from their peers versus me all the time.  Of course, caring classrooms and stars & wishes training them is paramount.  For this feedback, I typically use these handy slips I created and have students (or myself) circle the appropriate icon and grant the star or wish (sometimes both).  If you'd like a full sheet of them ready to go, click here

Feedback Idea #2:  Pluses and Deltas
A decade ago, I worked for Outward Bound and was taught this useful strategy.  Like stars and wishes, it fosters constructive, non-behaviorist feedback.  In this case, the pluses are highlights of a student's best work or behavior and the deltas are areas that need change.  Delta, in this meaning, comes from the math and science worlds where the delta sign often means, "a small change in....".  I generally use a paper tool like the one below.  If you'd like a full sheet of pluses and deltas, click here.  You can tell I am into paper feedback.

Feedback Idea #3:  Glows and Grows - my new favorite!
I thank one of my graduate students, Josh, for this strategy he picked up from another educator and was kind enough to share with me (and his classmates during a class online discussion).  Like the previous tools, glows are highlights in a student's work or behavior. Grows are areas to improve.  There is something about the rhyme and alliteration of "glows and grows" that speak to me.  It is my feedback tool of choice, at the moment.  Click here for a full sheet of glows and grows.  A big thank you to Josh!

What other types of "contrast" feedback tools do you use? Share some of your ideas in the comments window below.  If you are the first to leave a comment, click on the word "comment" to get us started.

My best,

PS - One week until the first Upcycled Education giveaway begins!  Want to win something cool?


  1. I cannot stop glowing! (or giving stars. or pluses) about this post. I think this tool is EXACTLY what every student and teacher needs in their back pocket. I am consistently telling my students, if you do not like something, figure out a way to make it better, and telling them to assess me this way. Unfortunately, they tell me that "oh that lesson was boring" or there is "nothing I can do better, except help them learn the material" and I am lost, because yes, I'm not doing the best I can for them, but at the same time, they are not helping me figure out what I can do better for them. Until there is an open line of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and positive feedback, improvements for the better will be few and far between. I can NOT wait to introduce stars and wishes to my kids, and have them give stars and wishes to each other! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Eliza - I agree...a useful tool to use with your students to give them feedback and also for them to give you. Do train them first. They will need some experience using it.


  3. Okay - I am the queen of EXTRINSICALLY motivating my students... I toss out compliments, "brilliant!" "Awesome!" "You are soooo smart" "Nice job" "Couldn't have asked for a better answer" and candy like it's my job (not only am I shamelessly boosting their egos but the first lady, and perhaps you Professor, would be wholly disappointed). I feel a twang of disappointment in myself every time I bribe my students to complete their work, make deals or pass out some type of bait. Constructive feedback like the three methods above would definitely help push me in the right direction. I fear that the +/- may be too open ended for my 8th graders. They often say IDK whenever I ask them about what went well at the end of the week and what went poorly. I also can't imagine them doing peer reviews. Maybe it could be cool to develop a rubric for students to use for when they do peer critiques in order to provide them with more direction -- at least in the beginning.

  4. Anamika - Try scaffolding some of the feedback tips into your day and your students. You don't have to do them all. Just try one out here and there.


  5. I love these ideas for educators and parents! I could see using these with my daughter at bed time. Talking about things that happened during the day that were helpful and going over situations that she needs to work on. I would love to help her to become self-reflective and pick out areas that she needs to 'grow' and areas that she already 'glows'.
    This touches on Emotional Intelligence and self-awareness. Which every student (and educator) could use more of!

    Emillee C

  6. I love a star or a wish. I think it is helpful for kids who have some minor behavior issues. I can see me using this with a student during the plays they are presenting next week. One child has anxiety mixed with ADD and then being 13 and wanting to show off for his peers. I've already set up my expectations but I think providing feedback in a 'stars and wishes' format will be more positive than writing about his behavior on a rubric.

    Elise T

  7. Glow and grow, another great tool that can be used in the classroom or at home. A few weeks ago, my family and I were at a restaurant and my daughter brought her sketchpad to dinner. My husband and I were looking over her work, admiring what a great artist she is. My husband is a wonderful artist as well, and he wanted to give her some feedback. However, his feedback started coming across as criticism. I’m sure he meant well, but I could see my daughter’s confidence in her drawings start to diminish. I tactfully stopped my husband and I introduced glow and grow. I ask him to identify what glowed about the drawings and what needed to grow in the drawings. When he started to describe it to my daughter in this manner, she was more accepting of his opinion and suggestions.

    I love being able to used this new tools at home!

    Patricia L.

  8. I also love the glow and grow way of giving feedback. This method allows students to stop feeling that their work is being dissected and the teacher is only looking that the good and negative things. This is a good way to provide feedback without being to forward and making the students feel bad. Pointing out the good things in assignments rarely ever happens because students feel like the teachers are directly looking for what is incorrect. I definitely will incorporate this method in my own classroom one day. Ana V.

  9. i just printed off some 'glows and grows' feedback forms for our COG Kids outing tomorrow. We are hoping to start getting some feedback on our events so we can keep improving! Thanks for such a great idea!

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