AltSchool Hub

What I Learn from Listening to Students

Posted by Carolyn Wilson

Apr 11, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Screen_Shot_2014-04-11_at_2.14.05_PMGiving and receiving feedback is a key skill for children to learn.

In most classrooms, however, feedback is a one-way street. Students receive grades from teachers, but are much less likely to give feedback on their own learning experience.

As Director of Education and a teacher in our Upper Elementary program this year, I know that the regular feedback we get from students is crucial to helping me craft a bespoke education for each of them.

A recent Edudemic article reminds us:

The feedback students give teachers can be much more powerful than the feedback teachers give students.

We want students to feel comfortable giving feedback about their weekly playlist activities, as well as higher-level feedback about their educational journey. This helps me understand whether their learning activities are engaging and at the right level of challenge. It is also rewarding to see a student's sense of self-awareness and reflection grow throughout the year. 

Here’s what I've learned lately from feedback given to me from some of my students: 

A Growing Artistic Passion:What I learned at AltSchool is art. Back at my other schools, I didn't feel like an Artist. Now I feel like one.”

This student enjoys daily access to various artistic mediums through which she can express her ideas. She is deeply engaged when we study works of art in class and on field trips. Through study and self expression, she is discovering an area of passion and can see her own strengths in a new light.

An Exciting Challenge in Math: “I like doing math because it's challenging. I try not to give up.”

Finding precisely the right level of difficulty for a student can be a delicate balance. This student has been tackling work well above grade level, but is in the sweet spot where he is feeling challenged. He is also taking pride in his ability to persist.

A New Sense of Self-Regulation: “I am learning to get things done without someone telling me to do them all the time.”

When students drive their own learning, it is more meaningful to them. Sometimes they take detours, but when they find their own way they acquire more than a new skill or factoid. They develop grit. I am impressed by the multiple dimensions of this student’s growth and am working with him to include time management goals in his Personalized Learning Plan.    

Increasing Optimism: “Math is hard for me, but by the end of the year I think I will be able to do long division problems with ease.”

This student is not only getting stronger at math, he is developing an understanding of his learning profile.  As he manages his time and devises strategies for problem solving, his confidence grows in an area that historically has been a struggle. Mastering long division this year is a goal he set for himself and I’m excited to help him achieve it and track his progress.

What’s important about this process is that students recognize that feedback is not about saying the “right” things or seeking praise. Feedback is important information about how students are doing in reaching their learning goals. This feedback is equally valuable to share with their teachers as it is to share with themselves.

Through regular feedback, students acquire one of the most important skills of all - to be in the driving seat of their own learning.


(Photo credit: An AltSchool student collage of "Things I Enjoy Learning")

Topics: AltSchool Innovation