1. Ok is not good enough - Always expect the best from your students. If your expectations are high yet realistic and they know you believe in them, they will do everything in their power to reach those standards. So believe they can achieve butterfly six and never settle for butterfly one unless you know it is the very best they can do.
2. Provide meaningful, ongoing feedback - For some students, providing meaningful, ongoing feedback is easy. They want to know how they are going and they seek help along the way. However, I was concerned for the students that wouldn’t show me their work prior to the due date. Usually this was either due to disorganisation or perfectionism. I have had students say “I don’t want to show it to you until I have it perfect.” My question back to them is how do they get it perfect if they are not consciously striving to find ways improve their work? The solution is to build a culture of constructive feedback into your class and insist that students share their work openly no matter what stage they are at. In all my assessments I have now built in progress dates where they must show me their work at different stages so that I can provide them with explicit, ongoing and meaningful feedback well in advance of the final due date.
3. The importance of a daily ‘I like…’ / ‘I wonder…’ practice - In order to acclimatise my students to a classroom environment where a culture of constructive feedback was thriving, I now have a sharing session at the conclusion of the majority of my lessons. During this session students share the work they have completed that day. The remainder of the class provide them kind and specific feedback using the phrases ‘I like…’ and ‘I wonder…’. Sometimes we do this as a whole class discussion; sometimes we give 1:1 verbal feedback; sometimes we provide the feedback via post-it notes that the students can refer back to later; sometimes we use gallery walks. The result is a non-competitive class open to sharing and receiving constructive criticism. By practicing ‘I like..’ and ‘I wonder..’ daily, students are more open to meaningful, ongoing feedback from me as a teacher even when the stakes are high.
4. Aim for a personal best - Not all students are going to be able to achieve butterfly six no matter how many drafts they complete. Some students will achieve butterfly six on their second attempt. This is why we must continue to differentiate in our classes and focus on the students personal best rather then the grade at the end. If a student has taken all their constructive criticism and attempted to apply it, but only reaches butterfly three then we as teachers need to look at ways to scaffold tasks for them, revise concepts or actively guide them in their next project so that hopefully they can reach a butterfly four next time. Similarly, if a student achieves a butterfly six on the first attempt then we need to raise the bar and have them aiming for something beyond a butterfly six. We must differentiate and we must make their personal best our overall goal.
Further to these four points I conducted an experiment last week. I showed Austin’s butterfly to my daughter in Year 1 and a student I teach in Year 12. My daughter was drawing butterflies last Sunday (as little girls do) and I invited her to watch the story about Austin and his butterfly. She was engaged the entire time. When the video was over she asked me to put Austin’s butterfly on the screen, grabbed a pencil and some paper and began drafting, seeking feedback and redrafting. She didn’t get it in six attempts (to be honest she went through a whole ream of paper), but she understood the concept and began to understand the need to receive feedback in order to improve her work.
My conclusion, we need to start this process of constructive criticism early so that our students are resilient, willing to share and view critical feedback as a vital part of the learning process. I would love to hear what other teachers think of Austin’s butterfly and how you create an environment that is conducive to constructive criticism in your classroom.