Teaching World Languages: The Co-Constructed Feedback Process (Pt. 1)

According to Dylan Wiliam in The Secret of Effective Feedback, “The apparently simple process of looking at student work and then giving useful feedback turns out to be much more difficult than most people imagine. We could make the whole process considerably more effective by understanding one central idea: The only important thing about feedback is what students do with it.

What does this quote mean to you and how might it impact your own World Languages instruction and feedback process?

Co-constructed feedback is a collaborative conversation of student performance based on a scaled learning target, performance toward proficiency success criteria, student self-assessment, and teacher feedback. My colleagues and I have spent many hours of hard work understanding and perfecting this process. We utilize it for our Interpersonal Speaking Assessment aligned to each theme. While giving written feedback is equally important, we like to take the time here to stop, pull students away from their groups, and have a one-on-one conversation about their speaking abilities.

The goal of co-constructed feedback is to give students simple information they can understand and use to improve their skills. In this blog, I will take you step by step through a typical interpersonal speaking performance assessment in order to make it easy for you to implement these ideas in your own classroom.

1. Ready, Set, Perform!

Students should clear their desks of all materials, except their iPad (or other recording device) and a writing utensil. The teacher passes out a rubric and/or feedback sheet to each student and gives them a moment to familiarize themselves with the success criteria once again (because you have previously spent time discussing the rubric as a whole class). Students prepare their device to record using your designated recording application and sit close to their partner with both devices between them. When everyone is ready, display the discussion prompt. The teacher sets the timer for a determined period, and pairs converse until the time ends.

2. Self-Assessment/Reflection

It is crucial that students take the time to listen to themselves, self-assess, reflect, and classify themselves with the rubric.  Our rubric provides space for them to identify specific evidence from their conversation to support their classification. Here are a few examples:

Language Function:

  • How did you satisfy all parts of the prompt?
  • If you did not, what was missing?
  • How did you create with language?

Communication Strategies:

  • How did you participate in the conversation?
  • What questions did you ask?
  • What strategies did you apply when you weren’t understood or when you had difficulty understanding your partner?

Students will now put on their headphones, listen, and transcribe their conversation on the feedback sheet you handed out. They are to write anything that came out of their mouths during the conversation including “ums”, “ehs”, English words, etc. We also have an area on the feedback sheet for them to correct errors, elaborate, create additional questions, or provide ways to make their performance stronger.

3. Collaboration

In class, the next day, the teacher calls up pairs one by one, and co-construction begins. Before listening, ask students to share evidence to support their strengths and areas for growth or just simply ask about how the assessment went. This should be a casual conversation in English, to eliminate any pressure or confusion around the feedback. Together, listen to the recording. You will discuss each student’s performance with identification of strengths and areas for growth, providing oral feedback to the student and documenting on your grading portal or directly on the rubric. No score or letter grade is revealed to the student at this time because we like to have them process the information (without immediate focus on the grade) and complete one additional task when our meeting is over.

4. Summarizing the Feedback

Students go back to their seats and fill out a survey which asks them to summarize their strengths, areas for growth and create an action plan for future success. 

The data we collect informs our curricular teams about the instructional needs of our students and how to best support their learning. I use these surveys for discussion during my students next co-constructed feedback session. I like holding them accountable and following up-- it gives the survey meaning. We will talk about their action plan and if they took any specific steps to work on their areas of growth. Students will continue to focus on this area until progress is made.

5. Remediation and Re-Performance

Individual remediation and re-performance are done within a designated window of time. My window is two weeks as I want them to have enough time, but I also want a deadline. Generally, the teacher provides practice activities and additional homework aligned with the target. For example, if the identified area of growth is language control, students may be asked to complete a series of online tasks centered around grammar or vocabulary. After the student makes revisions to reflect level-appropriate changes, they are able to re-perform with a similar thematic prompt. This process may repeat if the student does not perform at level a second time. You can decide how many opportunities are provided.

While co-constructing, try to find meaningful activities for the rest of your students, such as interpretive activities, creating a flipped classroom with supporting content lessons (front loading grammatical structures or vocabulary) or projects. Although it is challenging to lose teacher-led class time, the conversations we have with students about their learning are invaluable.

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Read part two on co-constructed feedback here.

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Looking for support for your language class? Learn more about HMH’s World Languages programs.

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Jori Greenhill presented on co-constructed feedback at the 2019 ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo on Friday, November 22, in a session titled, "Us Vs. Them: For Whom Is The Feedback Anyway?"

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