Conclusions and Implications
The purpose of the study was to explore how teacher feedback and self-reflection affect student engagement and
motivation for future learning. The literature review and action research support the claim that with feedback and time for reflection, students can learn from mistakes and set personal growth goals. In this study, the timing of self-reflection and type of feedback did not have a strong correlation with the accuracy of students’ self-reflection or achievement of learning goals. The literature and action research did show that feedback and self-reflection practices that included metacognitive skills correlated with higher classroom engagement (as evidenced in Figure 1) and, overall, high motivation for student learning (as evidenced by student responses on survey and follow up survey). After the unit 4 follow up survey, 27.8% of students had achieved their learning goals and after the unit 5 follow up survey, 55.6% of students had achieved their learning goals. The increase in achievement and the increase in request for independent practice time (see Figure 7 and 8) may be related to students feeling more intrinsic motivation to work toward their goals.
Students must receive explicit instructions on how to receive feedback and how to self-reflect using rubrics in order for the feedback and self-reflection to have a positive effect on student motivation (Arbel et al., 2018; Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016; Sackstein, 2017; Sisquiarco, Rojas & Abad, 2018; Wilson & Conyers, 2014; Zubrycki, 2015). Students benefit from revising work directly after self-assessment and feedback.
Students benefit from explicit feedback. Instead of saying, “This is unclear.” Or “Good job.” Teachers may say, “I’m having a hard time following your mathematical thinking. What was going through your mind when you drew this diagram?” Peer feedback can be just as beneficial as teacher feedback after students receive instruction on this practice (Zubrycki, 2015). The experience of evaluating peers’ work and explaining feedback may increase the peer reviewer’s academic performance even if they did not receive feedback on their own work (Philippakos & MacArthur, 2016). Peer feedback can be practiced with open responses, activity cards, or during writing instruction (McGraw-Hill, 2018).
Teachers can increase students’ motivation by giving students opportunities to reflect on their learning, set personal goals, and review their goals regularly. When students set their own learning goals and regularly revisit these goals, they are more motivated to achieve them. For goals to be most effective, they must include both academic skills and metacognitive strategies that help students think about their progress and apply their learning to different situations (Wilson & Conyers, 2014).
Students requested individual practice time to work toward their goals more than they requested teaching or re-teaching of skills. Practice without feedback may be more valuable than practice with feedback for students who already have a basic conceptual understanding of an academic skill (Fyfe & Rittle-Johnson, 2016).
For primary grades, the goal is to help students develop executive functioning skills so that they can process feedback and be able to self-reflect on their success and areas for growth in later grades (Arbel et al., 2018). Can they sit through a math lesson as a class? Can they all have their math tools ready?
In addition to being the primary reaseracher for this study, I am also a teacher who is invested in the academic,
social and emotional growth of all my students. I wanted all students to benefit from the feedback, self-reflection and goal setting components of this study. It was not possible for me to be blind to the origin of participants’ work. I also entered the study with unintended biases about students’ mathematical abilities and how engaged they are during mathematics instruction. I did my best to avoid any biases and admit that my investiment in the participants’ growth may affect the objectivity of study results.
As I move forward as an educator and apply this research to different grade levels, it is important to note how age
affects students’ abilities to learn from feedback in the classroom. Arbel, Mccarty, Goldman, Donchin and Brumback (2018) explored the relationship between age and ability to learn from feedback. The results suggested that younger students may need more explicit instruction of how to process feedback (support of this executive function skill) in order to improve their learning (Arbel et al., 2018). This finding aligns with the research by Sisquiarco, Rojas, and Abad (2018) and Wilson and Conyers (2014) who found that teaching cognitive and metacognitive skills has a positive effect on students’ abilities to process and learn from feedback. Further literature review and research is needed to explore how younger students best develop executive functioning skills so that they can effectively process feedback.
While my analysis and findings may be limited in showing clear correlations between the variables in question, the
impact of my action research on my teaching is substantial. The research has undoubtedly made me a more effective mathematics teacher. I have become more mindful of how I provide feedback, how often I ask my students to self-reflect on their academic growth and metacognitive strategies, how explicit I am with directions for self-reflection, and how much time I spend on self-reflection, goal setting, and reviewing goals.
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