Feedback , Part Deux

I’m really interested in this subject of “Feedback,” so I went back and reread some of the research I cited in last week’s blog.  I particularly reviewed the information in the Marzano book What Works In Schools: Translating Research Into Action, to see if I missed or glossed over something important. I also picked up on a couple of related issues about establishing goals, both at the school level and for individual students.

The first thing I noticed was that the research Marzano cites, attributed to John Hattie, was based on almost 8,000 studies. That represents an incredible number of studies on one topic.  This level of comprehensiveness compels the reader to seriously consider the implications, even if they challenge some of our core beliefs and would require a change to certain of our practices.

 What I want to briefly present this week are Action Steps Marzano suggest:

  • “Implement an assessment system that provides timely feedback on specific knowledge and skills for specific students.” (Marzano, 2003. p. 39)

Note the two key words “timely” and “specific.”  He recommends here and in other places that annual state or standardized tests cannot provide the type of useful information for which feedback is appropriate because they only sample knowledge on a one-time basis. He is talking about formative assessments constructed by teachers and schools that assess specific knowledge and skills taught by teachers in that school. At a minimum he suggests constructing quarterly assessments.

 I would refer you to Indistar indicators that suggest that even more frequent pretests and posttests be developed to assess unit-level knowledge.  This would be more frequent than quarterly.  {See Curriculum, Assessment, and Instructional Planning, Section II A, B, and C, and Section III A in the document Continuous Improvement Indicators (school level) on the Indistar Homepage}.

  •  “Provide students with feedback on their knowledge gain.” (Marzano, 2003. p. 149)

When feedback is simply a matter of you got it or you didn't get it, we know learning opportunities have been lost. So one of the values of using pre- and post-tests is that the results can demonstrate to a student the growth or gain they made in learning specific content or improving their skills. Seeing this improvement will encourage the student to continue trying.  Combining effective reteaching and allowing retesting can bring the student to the same achievement levels as his/her classmates who “got it” after the initial teaching.  In this way, we can realize the goal of all students achieving at high levels. 

  • “Establish specific, challenging achievement goals for the school as a whole.” (Marzano, 2003. p. 40)

 Marzano makes two suggestion related to this Action Step:

  1. Don’t establish too many goals.  He cites research that indicates that schools that set a few goals are more successful than schools that set many goals but achieve few.
  2. Establish some goals that can reflect rapid improvement to build momentum and provide a foundation upon which to build. Sound familiar? That’s Indistar language and philosophy.  However, a caution is not to view reform as a short-term project. It’s to think and plan for long-term improvement while recognizing the importance of having some early successes.
  • “Establish specific goals for individual students.” (Marzano, 2003. p. 46)

 While establishing schoolwide goals are important, these goals may exclude a segment of the student population that does not achieve them.  Establishing individual student goals ensures that every child is accounted for.  Furthermore, Marzano cites Martin Covington, who “maintains that individual student goals are most effective when students are involved in setting them.”  Perhaps I’ll explore this topic in a future blog, but suffice it to say that even the youngest children can be involved in setting goals.

We’re interested in what is happening in your classrooms, schools, districts, or state to develop this kind of formative assessment system and provide powerful feedback. Remember, there are a few ways to engage with the IndistarConnect community, as long as you are a member and you have signed in:

  1. You can write a comment at the bottom of the blog.
  2. You can respond in the Your Reflections or Share Your Stuff tabs at the top of the page. When you open either tab, click the blue plus (+) sign at the top right of the screen.  Then create a title, write your comment in the text box, select or enter a “Tag” to identify what your topic is about, and then press the red “Publish” button at the bottom.  It’s that easy!

We hope to hear from you.

Reference: Marzano, R. (2003). What Works In Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. 

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Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and via email at
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