5-4-3-2-1: Feedback that Feeds Forward

I just received a frantic e-mail from a 10th grade chemistry student confessing that his group had not measured the final mass of the silver in their experiment.  To make matters even worse, they left the beaker out next to the oven for someone (read me) to clean up, and when they went back on a Saturday to measure the mass, it had mysteriously disappeared. No mass = no actual yield.  Sound familiar? 

Now fast forward a year to my first year IB biology classes.  While it is less likely that they will be as negligent in the lab, we all know that very few of them will be successful the first time out of the gate when they are assessed against the IB Internal Assessment rubric.  To receive a complete on any aspect of the rubric, the labs have to be nearly perfect.  I find that the majority of my students spend a great deal of their IB career in Partial Purgatory with no idea how to get themselves out of it because of the vague descriptions used to describe student performance on each aspect.

Fortunately, we all know that somehow, regardless of how hopeless it might seem, the majority of them CAN climb out of Partial Purgatory if they are provided with specific feedback and instruction.  As a result, I developed a formative assessment tool that is filled with positive feedback and specific, manageable constructive criticism meant to focus their efforts along the way.  I call it 5-4-3-2-1 feedback.

  • 5 minutes
  • 4 things I liked about your lab
  • 3 benchmarks you excelled on
  • 2 quick fixes
  • 1 major focus for your next lab

This forces me to say seven positive things about the student before I focus their attention on three things that they need to work on to improve their results.  The students are motivated by the praise.  The quick fixes show them that with just a few easy tweaks they are already moving along the continuum towards their goal of receiving a complete, and the narrow focus makes their goal seem attainable. 

To make this even more accessible, I created a google form that is shared with each individual student.  When I grade their labs, I fill out this form, and it automatically logs the feedback in a spreadsheet that they can access at any time to track their progress over the two-year course. 

I have included links to a sample form and a more detailed explanation of this assessment tool if you would like more information on how I use this in the classroom.  The link to the form opens to the spreadsheet used to collect the data.  For those of you that are not familiar with google forms, if you click on forms in the toolbar, and then go to live form, it will take you to the form that I fill out while grading my students’ labs.