Edtech tips

Formative feedback with G Suite

Using technology for deep learning
Many school districts across the nation are using Google’s G Suite for Education tools to help provide quality instruction to their students, whether face-to-face or virtually. Though the current circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic have introduced many new challenges for teachers, quality instruction is still built on a revolving formative feedback loop. Regardless of the subject, we begin with the skills and concepts we need our students to learn, and then plan an instructional journey that will lead students to fully grasp or master them. Along the way, we assess to make sure students are getting it  – because it can be really easy to push forward with our teaching and leave behind those students who are struggling. Hoping they eventually pick it up somewhere down the line isn’t an effective strategy and will most often cause students to develop wider knowledge gaps for the next teacher to try to close.

The value of formative feedback for teacher planning

Teachers can plan instruction and assess students’ mastery along the way instead of at the end. Using the data gathered from planned checkpoints, teachers can adjust their plans to tailor instruction to students based on their individual needs. For example, if an English Language Arts teacher begins a unit on making inferences from fiction text with a lesson on making observations, they can give students a Google Form exit ticket in which students record their observations from a text. The Google Form can be embedded in a Hāpara Workspace at the end of a lesson. The teacher can then use that data to determine which students are getting it and which need more intervention before moving on to the next step of making connections between observations and using reason to draw conclusions. In this way, formative assessment helps the teacher to plan instruction with greater confidence in leading students toward mastery of a concept or skill.

Empowering students with formative feedback in G Suite

Not only is formative assessment valuable for a teacher’s planning process it also empowers students to take ownership of their learning, which often aids student engagement. Students who are able to see where they’re at on their journey toward mastery of a skill or concept are able to self-advocate and ask for help when they need it. Crucially, students will know when they need help; this is often guesswork for students when formative assessment isn’t involved. Google’s G Suite for Education is a tool for teachers to provide formative feedback conveniently and intuitively. Hāpara Student Dashboard adds functionality to that capability and easily surfaces that feedback for learners.

Individualized feedback with Google Classroom

With Google Classroom, teachers can create formative checkpoints and provide individualized feedback that students can implement before submitting their work to be reassessed. 

Google Classroom integrates seamlessly with the Hāpara Instructional Suite as well as other Google Apps, such as Docs, Slides, Sheets and Forms, enabling you to create assignments using these other apps and assigning them to students through Classroom. The Hāpara Instructional Suite organizes Google Classroom and G Suite to simplify educator workflows. For example, you could create a graphic organizer for students to fill out in a Google Document and post the document as an assignment in Google Classroom. Teachers can set up a single document for students to access or have Google Classroom automatically create a document specifically for each student upon access. Students can then work within their own individual document and submit for grading or feedback when they’re finished. 

The assignment interface conveniently allows teachers to access each student’s assignment and record a grade, but, more importantly, teachers are able to provide private feedback on an assignment that will automatically alert the student when the feedback is posted. 

For example, if a student were to submit the rough draft of an essay, the teacher could provide feedback for the student to revise their draft and resubmit before the teacher assigns a final grade. Or the teacher might simply give the student some questions to think about to improve future drafts. Students can respond to this feedback, but they can also initiate communication through the private messaging feature. This allows students to ask questions that might help them to complete their assignment before submitting.

Comments within Google Apps

In addition to the private messages within Google Classroom, each of Google’s apps (Documents, Slides, Sheets) allows users to leave comments on specific details within the document. If a student is working on a presentation for a science class, for example, the student can invite the teacher to comment on the document, and the teacher can highlight specific elements of the presentation and leave comments to provide helpful teacher feedback.

Automatic feedback with Google Forms

The Google app that is most likely to save a teacher time while also providing valuable feedback to students is Google Forms. Teachers can create a form to act as a quiz using a variety of question types, such as multiple-choice, grids and text. Forms can be set up as quizzes with point values attached to each question, and depending on the type of question, the teacher can set up a predefined answer key that makes the Google Form quiz grade itself automatically. 

Teachers can set up automatic feedback to be sent to students on individual questions, such as explanations for why an answer is correct, and students can review this feedback to understand their own answers better. Feedback can also be provided manually after a teacher grades questions that can’t be graded automatically.

Video feedback with Google Meet

Regardless of if you’re teaching face-to-face or virtually, Google Meet is a powerful tool that allows you to connect with students through video conferencing. It is perfect for an after school tutorial time in which students connect with their teacher and ask questions or request guidance. Because teachers and students have the option to present their screen through Google Meet, students can show their work and ask specific questions and teachers can model skills and concepts for students to see on their screen.

Teachers can also use Google Meet to record video feedback and then post the videos generated as a comment in Google Classroom or one of the Google document apps. Gmail is an option as well. This works particularly well if you have something to say to a student that might require a little more nuance than allowed through a text comment.

Teachers can provide powerful formative feedback to help students on their journeys toward mastery as well as providing valuable data to drive instructional planning with G Suite, Google Classroom and Hāpara.

About the author
Tom Farr is a writer, teacher, and storyteller. He writes regularly about teaching, creativity, and writing on Medium and his love of Star Wars at The Force Analysis. His work has also appeared on The Writing Cooperative, The Startup, and The Unsplash Book.

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