I’ve been really hooked on a show called “Songland”. The process in which songs are made fascinates me as I see how songs are workshopped and how feedback is given to improve the artist’s work. This makes me realized that even though their first draft is really good, it is still up for improvement. Below is an excerpt of “Songland”

Why am I referring to Songland when this is an education blog? Well . . . as I’m scouting through a number of tweets, posts, and exhibitions, we fall into a habit of showing off a final project. Yes, the final product does look nice as it has all the bells and whistles and every imperfection has been ironed out. Yet, a particular narrative is missing as we only see the student as a learner at the finish line not the student as a learner struggling in the middle of the process. How do we experience a student’s growth, challenges process, and journey?

As a person who wants to show off his best work, developing that mindset of showing off the work in progress, the mistakes, and the imperfection is hard because we don’t want to be judged by the draft. Before we can celebrate the work in progress, we have to create a culture where our learners feel safe and validated for sharing out their learning moments and mistakes through the work in progress, not feel a sense of failure because it is incomplete and/or imperfect, feel empowered that they started on something, and have the feedback needed to make it even better.

How does one do that:


My learners love to see me make mistakes, especially in public. They call it out and they remind me about those mistakes for days and maybe the remainder of the school year. How I react to mistakes is based upon how constructive I am about them?

Below is a video of me modeling my work in progress and reflection of making a Batman costume out of duck tape for an Iron Science Teacher Event at the Exploratorium since the secret ingredient was the science of duck tape.

It lightened up the mood as they were getting a kick out of me struggling to get into the costume. I don’t mind making a fool of myself but what made this a lesson was when I modeled my analysis of what I could have done better in my process and presentation. They need to see reflection, productive struggle, and mistakes modeled in order for them to be comfortable doing the same behaviors.


Through the coaching model of teaching, we have the opportunity to give meaningful feedback. Now . . . we cannot give meaningful feedback to every single piece of work because that would be overwhelming. We have to split the two into three categories – the practice, the assessment of learning, the assessment for learning, and student self-assessment. When I give feedback for the practice, I give verbal feedback to student individual and I look for patterns within the practice and report out patterns of things students understand and don’t understand. With the part that students don’t understand, I reteach it differently.

As for the assessment of learning, or our class we call it the BOSS BATTLE, I put more of my energy to workshop/tune each of my student’s work in progress. As they share their work in progress with me, I give them 3 types of feedback –

  • Warm Feedback– 2-3 aspects that student did really well on. Refer the feedback back to the rubric.
  • Cool Feedback– 2-3 pieces of feedback on aspects students need to work on. Refer the feedback back to the rubric.
  • Hard Feedback — An “I wonder” or “Why” question about the decisions/implications of the decision they made on their work in progress.

Even though I didn’t follow that format, I’ve integrate that format in a different through the feedback I gave to Harrison on the story that he made.

Feedback I gave to Harrison


Using the warm, cool, and hard feedback format, I model how students give feedback to each other. Middle school students, unless they are trained really well, are not that well versed in providing constructive feedback. Within the warm, cool, and hard feedback structure, I will train them to use the rubric to look for evidence that supports their claim on where their peer is on the rubric and provide reason(s) why they fit that part of the rubric — more like the claim, evidence, and reasoning model of giving feedback. This shows show me they are learning to be critical of each other’s and their own work. Below is some feedback, that students gave to each other.

To help frame student-given feedback, I use sentence starters and guiding questions so that students are focused on particular aspects of the work. Below is an example of feedback frames I use to help students form their feedback to their peers.


It’s valuable when student assess their own learning before they submit it to you so they check back on the requirement and reflect what they have done and what didn’t do. The purpose of self-assessment is to for students to be self-aware of their own work because there are going to be times where students submit the work without looking at the requirement and receive feedback that they weren’t expecting. Make it required that students self assess their work before they submit it. The best part of this is they did the work for you.

Student reflections as the ends can be a valuable self assessment of how students though about their progress. It allows us to see their inner voice and processes at the end of the projects and informs us of the changes they will make for a future project. Below is a portion of one of my student’s blogs.


Last and the most important thing is to make sure “FINAL DRAFT” is out of our language. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FINAL DRAFT . . . as everything that we do, design, and perform is forever a work in progress . . . it is forever going evolve as we as long as we decide to evolve it. It’s still going to have wrinkles and imperfection . . . it is not PERFECT. Also get PERFECT out of our vocabulary because when we say our work is not perfect, we are conforming to a status quo, we are comparing our work to another piece of work that has already ready reached a particular bar. Our goal as learners is to surpass our own personal bar.


The real learning not only come from the making, designing, and developing of something, the real crux of learning comes from our student’s ability to welcome and analyze feedback so that they have data to inform them of actions steps to improve their current version of their work in progress.

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