My count-down to summer series this year is all about teaching those unfamiliar beings in our classrooms popularly referred to as Generation Z. Three weeks ago, I discussed how I make lecture work for them. The week before was all about research. Last week, I addressed creating a sense of urgency surrounding assignments so that our students, well, do them. This week, I’m going to discuss giving these elusive creatures effective feedback.
In the introduction to this series, I identified five traits Gen Z collectively shares (give or take):
1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations.
2. There’s a lot of “noise” in their lives. They don’t always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one).
3. They are more interested in what “real people” are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don’t expect to be.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs.
I’m going to take these sweeping traits and attempt to explain how I frame feedback to get Gen Z to, well, listen to it and then take action.
We’ve already discussed how there’s a lot of noise in our students’ lives and they are adept at tuning it out. I think one way to prevent this is to tailor feedback to them and require them to reflect upon it.
This sounds like a lot of work, though, right?
It can be, but there are a couple of things I want to point out. The first is to distinguish between differentiation and personalized learning. Personalized learning seems like a new way to spin differentiation, another “buzz word” in education, but there is a key difference: differentiation is reactive and personalized learning is proactive.
This means that if you’re differentiating, you’re constantly modifying for students, but if you’re personalizing, you already have systems in place to reach diverse students.
With some upfront planning and the assistance of meaningful technology (AKA tech that will save you time), this can actually make your life easier in the long-run.
Here’s How I Give Gen Z Meaningful Feedback:
1. Address Issues One-to-One Or in Small Groups
The key to making feedback meaningful to them is to have a one-to-one or small group conversation with them. They are experts at tuning out noise and a teacher addressing a full class can register as noise with them. Finding the time for conferences depends on making the class less teacher and more student-focused.
In a secondary setting, that can be easier said than done. Some of the methods I’ve discussed in previous weeks, such as bite-sized lectures and stations will help you do this.
Ways to Group Students for Conferences:
If students have, for instance, written a paper, and you need to see small groups about specific things, stations are a good opportunity to group them in this way. You would have one station that you lead and address specific concerns with each group.
Or you could give a formative assessment in Google Forms and group students based on score. You can export scores to a spreadsheet and set the grade column to color-code based on score so that it’s easy for you to visually group them (see cheat sheet for details).
Another easy way to keep track of everything is to use Google Keep as you grade. Create a virtual sticky note for each class. As you are grading, have the sticky note pulled up. Make categories for specific things you notice students need to work on. List student names beneath that category (see cheat sheet for details).
You can also use Keep to share virtual sticky notes with students. If they are using Docs or Slides to complete or revise an assignment, they can pull up the sticky on the side and check off boxes as they complete a task (see cheat sheet for details).
2. Personalize Learning
This can take many forms, but I recommend using technology to your advantage here. There’s an add-on called Automastery for Google Forms that will enable you to set three different levels of mastery for a formative assessment. You can set a different assignment for each level of mastery and it will be emailed to your students (see cheat sheet for details).
For beginning level, the assignment could be a reading or a video to relearn the content and then retake the quiz. The middle level could be additional practice with the content or concept, and the mastery level could be an extension assignment.
You can use Google Slides or Nearpod to teach a topic and then link (for Slides) or embed (for Nearpod) a Google Form. You can set the form so that if a student misses a question, they are taken to a section of the Form for immediate feedback and instruction–I use screen snippings from their reading to reteach (see cheat sheet for details).
3. Require Students to Reflect
This is key. They have so many distractions in their lives that if they don’t take time to reflect on feedback and what they’ve learned, it will make no difference to them. One way to do this would be with a Google Slides presentation. For each virtual sticky note that you give them, they should take a minute to drag it into their slideshow, add a text box, and write a short reflection about how they will implement it (see cheat sheet for details).
A no-tech option is to require students to keep a reflection journal (it can stay in the classroom). For every conference, they can write a brief reflection and plan for implementation. Throughout the year, they can look back over it to see how they’ve grown.
Here is how personal feedback speaks to Gen Z:
1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations. Frequent formative assessment, conferences, and Keep Notes help to focus and redirect them.
2. There’s a lot of “noise” in their lives. They don’t always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one). A Keep Note that they immediately must take action on forces them not to tune us out. A conversation has the same effect.
|Grab The Cheat Sheet HERE!|
3. They are more interested in what “real people” are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies. Again, talking to them individually or in small groups gives them the real interaction that they crave from social media.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don’t expect to be. Personal connection, conversation, and being part of a group is not boring for most people. The sense of belonging that working toward a specific goal with others (and being held accountable to it) creates may not be thrilling, but it’s meaningful. They will pay attention to that.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs. With this, we should be striving to help them understand that they are ultimately working toward self-improvement–a vital step in the entrepreneurial process.
Be sure to check out all of the posts in this series on teaching Gen Z for helpful tips and tricks: