We are teachers and we want to make our students’ work shine. Whenever we come to the end of a unit we celebrate, so it’s natural to want to put students’ work in the best possible light. In an effort to make their work look polished and finished, it can be easy to get hyper focused on the end product, or to follow only one line of focus. When this happens we could potentially lose opportunities for some important learning along the way. Learning for transfer is steeped in feedback and reflection, so if we just made a beautiful product like an oral presentation, or piece of writing, we want to be careful not to separate it from its process.
We are all for a finished product, we want students to be proud of their efforts – that is very important. However, we get into trouble if we decide to interfere with the level of their work in an effort to make it “look good”. Once we start down that road the product begins to reflect us not the students. We are asserting our power and by doing so diminishing theirs. Instead, we see an end product as the beginning for what comes next. A finished product is like a blip on a line graph. It’s a representation of a moment in time in this child’s school year, and should be celebrated for its own merit. Really, an evaluation of the end product gives us lots of information to carry forward to help students understand that learning is a process.
The way to make these products more powerful is to seed them with feedback and reflective practice. In doing so we are hitting three important elements:
- We are putting the “audience” in an active stance during a celebratory share of their classmate’s work. When we ask students to evaluate, to connect, or question what was shared we are teaching them how to be responsive learners.
- We are honoring the process of those students who created the product. Teaching children how to offer and receive feedback is essential. Students quickly learn their work matters and is not just a “one and done” scenario. Instead, this pushes learners to consider what else they can do, or gain insight for new goals.
- We are growing reflective practices that will extend learning for each child so they may see things through another’s perspective. What was the impact of my work? How do I know? What worked? What could be changed?
If we decide to celebrate finished work by honoring the process we open our students up to a beautiful experience. Instead of just waiting for their turn to share they are giving feedback and are actually learning from their peers! When we encourage children to be reflective we are deepening their learning so that they may grow more insightful and self-assured.