By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Monday, December 28, 2020

In these times of remote, virtual, and/or hybrid learning, I wonder about the level of understanding connecting clear expectations and effective feedback. It may sound odd to you but I don’t think providing clear expectations means the same to everyone and then once the expectations are shared, what is the follow up? How do I know that what I said is understood in ways that make the outcomes realistic? Then, am I providing feedback that is linked to the expectations or are there some surprises there?

I actually don’t think this is endemic to just this pandemic panic; I believe that thinking about and delivering clear expectations and providing appropriate feedback should be the norm for all schools, all the time.

Edutopia recently published a piece on the topic of assessment and clear learning targets. In the article, John Hattie’s Visible Learning is referenced: “… self-assessment, feedback, and student clarity yield substantial growth in student learning.” We are reminded that understanding the expectations and asking students to reflect on their learning moves practice forward. Being able to provide specific, timely, descriptive, and nonjudgmental feedback has to be linked to the expectations. If students are not clear on what is expected, the outcomes will reflect their misunderstandings and perhaps the vagueness of the task. The directions may be clear in a teacher’s head but if it is not communicated appropriately and followed up to maintain clarity, the outcomes will not be aligned to the expectations. Remember, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” (Alan Greenspan).

So, then what happens? Misunderstanding, misinformation, misrepresentation, and probably lots of frustration because what you thought you said was not understood in the way you wanted it to happen. And, of course, the outcomes are not what you expected.

Here are three helpful hints for continuous implementation suggested in the Edutopia article: 1) Rubrics don’t tell the story so don’t rely just on them; share exemplars instead to model the expectations; 2) Ask clarifying questions so you’ll know if the expectations were understood and follow up with interval questioning so you can see in real time what needs more explaining; and 3) model and provide opportunities for students to give and get feedback which can be analyzed in real time so that the link between expectations and feedback makes sense. 

How do you ensure that your expectations are understood as they were meant to be?

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