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Teacher comments raising achievement

POSTED: May 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Teachers at Bryan County Middle School have seen success with the process of examining student work through teacher commentary. BCMS teachers meet collaboratively to review samples of student work. They discuss student accomplishments as a result of feedback and instructional strategies used to meet the needs of the learner. Based on the analysis, they also plan for what the teacher might do next to help those learners who have still not met the objectives. Teacher commentary is a powerful tool for both teachers and students. When used properly, it has a positive impact on student achievement. Teacher commentary provides an avenue in which teachers provide feedback to students. This feedback helps students to learn from their mistakes and make adjustments for their future learning.

Feedback can be both oral and written and it is suggested that both types are used. In order for the learner to make adjustments, it is important for the teacher to provide descriptive feedback throughout the learning process. The feedback needs to be timely so students have time to take action on their work. If feedback only comes at the end of the learning, the learner does not have time to make necessary adjustments to their learning.

When writing teacher commentary, the teacher needs to be descriptive and specific. The student should be provided with enough information to understand what they need to do to improve. Both oral and written feedback needs to be in the language of the standards that are being assessed through the task. The use of rubrics to assess student products can assist the teacher in writing teacher commentary. It is also important to celebrate success and/or progress towards goals as well as provide students with those "next steps".

Teachers at BCMS began the process of examining student work during the 2006-2007 school year. Teachers were provided with professional development opportunities through First District RESA on writing teacher commentary and the collaborative analysis process. During the 2007-2008 school year, professional development opportunities continued with writing and using rubrics for assessment and posting student work samples. We will continue these professional development opportunities as we continue to adjust our learning based on our own feedback- student achievement.

Written by BCMS Curriculum Resource Teacher Julie Howard.

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