In her ASCD article, Brookhart defines it best: “Effective feedback describes the student's work, comments on the process the student used to do the work, and makes specific suggestions for what to do next.”
Individual conferences and feedback are inextricably linked, as individual conferences provide the space for effective feedback to occur. Therefore, the types of conferences you conduct, and the type of feedback you provide, are symbiotic. I encourage you to read Brookharts Feedback That Fits in the ASCD journal for more on the impact of clear, positive teacher feedback, which provides precise information on the next steps a student can take to reach their learning targets.
In this post, we focus on conferencing individually with students as a form of remediative feedback, directly following a Check for Understanding
Zaretta Hammond discusses in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, the implications for feedback and individual conferences, noting that individual conferencing gives way to connection, daily engagement, motivation, self-efficacy, and ultimately, student success.
Individual conferencing became part of my daily practice (at least once a week). And over time, my students adapted to the expectations and routine; I had myself a well-oiled machine. My students looked forward to these conferences, as did I.
The following is a conference protocol that I developed. While the protocol most closely lends itself to conferencing directly following a formative assessment, it can certainly be adapted to fit your conferencing and feedback goals.
Before beginning the protocol, students would complete a Check for Understanding (CFU) and understand how the CFU connected with the learning target or objective for the class.
Each conference begins with the teacher asking the students how they are doing, how their day has been. The teacher should also share something that they are happy/excited about in their life. This lets students know that you care about them! (15-20 seconds.)
Ask the student their thought-process in completing the CFU. What steps did they take? How did they arrive at that answer? The teacher may ask probing questions to guide the thinking. This is low stakes- if the student is unsure how to respond, let them know that that is okay.
Depending on how step 2 goes, the teacher decides whether a complete reteach is necessary, or if they can explicitly identify the part of the process that needs clarification.
The teacher provides explicit next steps for the student. Either the student will write the feedback on the task itself, or the teacher will jot-down some key words and phrases.
The student is directed back to their seat and given the time to immediately apply the feedback and revise the CFU.
For each of these conferences, I am not
writing anything more than a sentence or 2.
telling students how to “fix” the work.
fixing the work for students.
giving the answer (students revise the same CFU post-conference).
Grading (I typically did not grade CFU’s)
building my relationship and connection with students.
meeting my students where they need, whether that is through a reteach or clarification.
guiding the conversation. If this conference were student-led, and simply non-evaluative, I would be more the facilitator and the student would be the leader of the conversation. But here, my purpose is to reteach. Therefore, I lead the meeting.
sharing with students why this revision is important, how it connects to the real world and what we learn in the future of the class.
using key words and phrases to provide action-oriented next steps.
giving students an opportunity to revise.