Formative Feedback And The Invisible Cloak

When it comes to providing live feedback, how do you get the most out of students?

There is an excellent article by Granberg, Palm and Palmberg (2021) which looks at the effects of formative assessment practice on students’ self-regulated learning.

Formative assessment is a key support for the development of self-regulated learning and this can be developed in lots of ways through active evaluation in the moment or ‘live’ as the lesson unfolds.

In their case study, Granberg et al noted how a teacher crafted and created opportunities for students to practice self-regulatory skills and gathered intelligence using a strategy called ‘Invisible cloak’.

How does this work?

This involves the teacher explaining that when he wears an imaginary cloak he becomes invisible to everyone. Students obviously have to buy into this but the idea is that the teacher is able to walk freely around the classroom ‘without being seen’ (i.e. the students are to ignore him) and as he does so he observes and provides feedback.

The feedback given isn’t verbal but he writes it onto his laptop which is connected to the whiteboard for all to see. The teacher’s feedback often included information about what the students had done well and indications of how they could improve their learning.

Some of the feedback given:

“Lily has some difficulty, but she examines some of the earlier tasks she has solved to get some ideas; that is a good strategy.”

“Mia chose a worksheet with tasks she never worked with before, now she is in Zone 2, that is a good strategy.”

“Ben has been looking out of the window for a fairly long time, that is probably not a good strategy… But now Ben starts to work. Good choice!”

In this case study, the teacher describes his students as responding well to this way of feeding back and they were more engaged “in trying out a variety of actions to see what feedback they would get.”

Student feedback on the strategy was positive:

“It was great when he wrote about my and my friends’ way of dealing with difficult tasks.”

“It is a bit ridiculous when he turns invisible. But it is actually good to not always have the teacher to ask, then you need to think about other ways to solve a difficult task.”

In this way, students continuously received information against which they could both compare their own internal constructions of goal criteria and monitor and self-assess their progress

By using the invisible cloak strategy the teacher was able to gather learning intelligence and then used this information to provide feedback that targeted learning needs in all phases of the self-regulation process.

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