The Two-Way Flow of Feedback

 The Two-Way Flow of Feedback

Brian M. Pete and Robin Fogarty, PhD

One of the most effective strategies to engage students in their own learning is modeling metacognition. This “thinking about one’s thinking” uncovers personalized feedback to the student. By modeling reflections on students’ work, students soon learn that their own reflective adjustments are what matters most as they grow and progress in their awareness of their own learning. They soon learn to use self-feedback techniques to scrutinize their own work.

In the process of becoming more reflective about their learning, students also understand that feedback isn’t about what’s wrong—it’s about what’s next.  With that in mind, there are many facets that guide the feedback flow for metacognitive reflection for appraising and improving student work.


Engaging students with feedback begins with teacher observations about what occurs in the teaching and learning process. That said, to know that the feedback flow actually is a two-way flow is significant. Stiggins, 2009; Wiliam, 2011, and Fogarty & Kerns, 2009, write richly about instructional opportunities to optimize feedback from students. They encourage teachers to pay close attention to the endless flow of student work samples, dialogues, peer conversations, homework, and routine instructional tasks. These constitute genuine feedback, cues, and clues about students’ learning. Truly, the observant teacher can glean much relevant data from students, as evidence of their learning.

The other notable way that feedback flows, of course, is the flow of finely-crafted teacher comments, hints, and suggestions to the students (Hatti, 2003; Hattie, & Templay, 2007).  Carefully providing feedback that is immediate, specific, relevant, and actionable is intended to move the students along. Yet, what seems most pertinent in this discussion is that the feedback comes from students to teachers and to students from teachers. This is that continuous, two-way back and forth between students and teachers and it’s how the magic of independent learning happens. It’s how the learning journey toward improvement and perfection is orchestrated in effective instructional scenarios. It’s how a sense of student agency develops.


Feedback from students embraces the power and productivity of formative assessments during the course of normal instruction, and allows for endless customizations to student learning. With routine, everyday feedback information gleaned from those deliberate, common learning tasks (work samples, class participation, and specific signaling strategies) that occur throughout the day, teachers can make decisions that truly personalize learning.

In fact, as teachers become aware of the power of optimizing student feedback, they realize that opportunities abound for insightful, metacognitive reflection as students interact in dialogues, small group conversations, and whole group discussions. Finally, there is evidence of rigorous feedback from kids as their thoughts are revealed in deliberate strategies including talk-alouds, problem-solving, and item analysis work-throughs.


Feedback explicitly flowing to students before, during, or following a learning session or work time, is determined most frequently, by the teacher. Yet peer feedback, partner back-and-forths, and even trios with a reflective observer in the group often can provide viable and useful coaching tips, hints, and clarifications to allow that student to continue on his way. As a result, students can be more effective and can develop a surefootedness, boosted by that emerging self-confidence.

This feedback to students is best done in a coaching way, not in a correcting way. That’s how students become empowered in their own right to take responsibility for correcting their work. Feedback informs and gives students control over their own learning.


Five strategies from a treasure trove of known and unknown, yet-to-be-invented feedback tactics illustrate how feedback in theory is transformed into feedback in practice. These examples can be woven into routine classroom interactions and are easily tweaked for elementary, middle, and secondary classes.

1. Stoplight Signals: Signal, Respond, Act

Signaling feedback automatically demands actions! You can use green, yellow, and red cards with students to signal you when they may need more help:

  • Show Green: “I’m moving right-along”
  • Show Yellow: “I have a question.”
  • Show Red: “How can I get unstuck? Here’s my thinking…”

2. Easy as 1,2,3!  Revisit, Question, Illuminate.

Student feedback on work samples exposes clarity and confusion. Have students reflect on their processes: “In 3 steps this is what I did: 1, 2, 3! Now, What?”

3. That’s Good Idea! Recognize, Acknowledge, Coach

Use specific feedback to guide students’ work:That’s a good idea because you use a clear graphic that shows you the big picture.”

4. Best Case, Worst Case: Whole Class, Small Group, Individuals

Feedback builds confidence! Have students reflect on their “glows” and “grows”:

“My best case is when I write from an outline; my worst case is when I don’t finish.”

5. Name, Scheme, Rank! Instruct, Improvise, Improve

Teacher feedback enhances performance achievement.

Ask yourself, and name what has worked in the past? Scheme. Ask a friend what s/he has used before? Scheme again. Ask one more person for input. Then rank the three ideas and move on.

Over-time, teachers can “feed” feedback strategies to students to ensure that metacognitive reflection becomes a part of the teaching and learning process. This attention to metacognition and customary, personalized, reflective thinking may well mark the subtle, yet, measureable distance between effective and highly effective teachers.


The strategies themselves are the practical tools for infusing personal, relevant feedback to teachers and to students. The essence of feedback as a verifiable and reliable strategy in the k12 classroom is more about the actual, student to teacher and teacher to student interactions. Staying connected, interested, and involved in student/teacher ongoing efforts allows critical information to be shared.

In sum, teachers capturing and responding to feedback from students optimizes cues and clues about student learning, while feedback to the student, based on the teacher’s informed observations, inferences, and decisions, maximizes learning for the students. This continuous flow of feedback information on our two-street fosters personalized learning models.


The Economist: What Works at What Cost? Effectiveness and Cost of Education Strategies. EEF EducEndowFound. (June 9, 2016;  Feb 8, 2018).

Fogarty, R. and G. Kerns. (2009). InFormative Assessment: When it’s Not About a Grade.  Thousands oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Hattie, J.  Teachers Make the Difference: What’s the Research Evidence? Distinguishing Novice from Experienced Teachers. University of Auckland
Australian Council for Educational Research, October 2003.

Hattie, J and Temperley, H. 2007. The Power of Feedback. Volume: 77 issue: 1, page(s): 81-112. Issue published: March 1, 2007

Jackson, R. (2017). The Anatomy of Good Feedback. Mindsteps, Inc.

Kerns, G. .2018. Personalized Learning: White Paper. WI : Renaissance Learning.

Wiliam, D. 2009. Embedded Formative Assessments. Melbourne, AU: Hawker Brownlow Education.


Becoming Edupreneurs in 21st Century Schools

Edupreneurs are risk-takers, lifelong learners, and recruiters

Becoming Edupreneurs in 21st Century Schools

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin

Becoming an edupreneur requires the dusting off of three dispositions of our younger selves. These are three postures that made many of us fearless warriors in the education arena, taking on every challenge we faced with energy, enthusiasm, and most of all, eagerness.

We owe this gift of an edupreneur’s approach to our remarkably able student body, who are trying hard not to—but most definitely are—leaving us behind. They move along at lightning speed in every aspect of their notable generation. They know how to connect, like no other generation, with the tech tools and a deepened sense of humanity at their disposal. They prefer collegial endeavors, inventing the concept of collaborative teaming up with inventive ideas that spread like wildfire: the flash mob, the massive march on Washington, instant trends with amazing apps developed by ten-year-olds. Yet they balance schedules packed with organized events with their own space—downtime, peer time, and self-only time—and still manage to maintain respectable academic records.

So, in spite of lame rumors to the contrary about millennials, the young people of this generation are rocking their world with innovations launched daily, record-breaking athletic feats in every possible arena, ambassadorships throughout the world, and taking on the roles of troubleshooting activists already advocating for a better, safer, more human society.

In a complementary role, we, as education leaders can fully embrace and adopt the role of edupreneurs. Curious what that might look like? A lingering vision of the edupreneur that emerges embraces three mega-dispositions of risk-taker, lifelong learner, and persevering recruiter, inspired from earlier years as educator extraordinaire. Clustered within the three habits of mind that capture the essence of the modern teacher are descriptors by Reid Wilson (2014). From his visionary list of behavioral dispositions for the modern teacher, he cautions, “21st century teachers are not experts in technology, they are experts in habits of mind.”

Based on Wilson’s perceptions, the following discussion is enhanced with additional insights to illuminate the depth of these predictive observations. For the eager teachers, aspiring leaders, and recruiting educators, the ideal hire may require a very different bar of exceptionalism, just as “Google Hires” has discovered (Friedman, 2014) in screening candidates for their company. Their mention of intellectual humility and stepping in or stepping up when needed give a flavor of the kind of soft skills that rise to the call for star hires.


The ones able to step outside their comfort zone, the early adopters of change in digital-rich classrooms, conference spaces, presentation halls, and outside of the brick-and-mortar school will be in demand. Embracing change, not as simple as it sounds, is a key trait we must cultivate in a modern school culture. Look for the ones who welcome that newly assigned classroom, even though it’s small, or dig in earnestly to the adaptable curriculum, invite the incoming principal into their room, welcome the constant stream of new instructional software, and make time for that new kid who shows up five weeks into the term. Look for those who model an active curiosity, questioning everything and offering their own devised answers. Remember, “Kids are born as question marks and leave school periods,” according to Neil Postman (1969). How do we retool our values of conformity and compliance and honor the risk-takers willing and able to upset the apple cart? Are we ready for this kind of sweeping change?

Lifelong Learners

Knowing those genuine learners, celebrating their code of honor as lifelong learners, this habit of mind is authentic and somewhat rarer than one might think. Revisiting Toffler’s prophetic statement, “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” (1970) seems particularly relevant.

Thinking about Wilson’s (2014) list of traits of the modern learner, they often actually run toward their area of weakness, not away from it. They show up as the techno-wannabe, the novice volunteer for the spring competition day—and, best of all, they are not afraid to ask for help. They believe they can learn anything, when they adopt the right attitude and put in the needed effort. Lifelong learners see themselves as co-learners in the classroom, and they move easily into their students’ world, even if it’s foreign territory.

In fact, these dedicated learners, as modern teachers, see life as their classroom and learn along with the kids, as well as learning from the students who are experts in an area, when the teacher admittedly is not. This lifelong learner does not shy away from the new, the unknown, and the yet to be fully developed. They jump in and take it from where it is and where they are, and somehow find ways to tackle the mysteries and move confidently forward. These are the dauntless learners who enjoy the journey as much or more that the destination, presenting a picture of the learner, not just seeking the right answer and calling it done, but sincerely enjoying the serendipities of the learning experience.

Persevering Recruiters

Perhaps the least recognizable trait of the modern teacher is the one of the persevering recruiter, comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen, choosing to be vulnerable, and modeling the principle that failure is okay. These persevering recruiters dream big and ask “Why not?”

They are unwavering advocates and do not wait till they’re experts to introduce something; they just do it, modeling an envied resiliency and persistence that is admirable. Wilson’s prediction (2014) about modern-day teachers alludes to an innate level of salesmanship that exudes confidence with their strength and belief in what they are doing. Persevering recruiters take risks as pioneers and early adopters, yet they feel secure asking for help from colleagues and are continually persuading others to come on board. They understand the hard work required to develop expertise and the stubbornness needed to keep going when the challenge is hard.

In Closing

When people are not afraid of failing, they are free to take risks, assume the stance of lifelong learners, and persevere in recruiting others into the realm of becoming a modern forward-thinking educator. As we feel the sense of urgency to think about teaching in a radically transforming way, in this radically transforming world, it will serve us well to embrace the skills and most of all the spirit of these proactive, productive, and philosophically daring habits of mind. This is how one discovers the power the modern teacher has to empower students to new and perhaps unforeseen heights.



Byant, A. June 19, 2013. New York Times. “Adapted for this exercise… Corner Office: Laszlo Bock.” In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal.

Friedman, T. February 22, 2014. “How to Get a Job at Google. Hint: Getting hired is not about your G.P.A. It’s about what you can do and what you know.”

Postman, N. and C. Weingardner. 1969. Teaching as a Subversive Activity. New York: Penguin Education.

Toffler, A. 1977. Future Shock.

Side Note: (2009) To Quote, Unquote and Re-Quote. “You’d be forgiven to think it’s ‘his’ book when in fact it is the compilation of many future-thinkers, edited by Rowan Gibson in 1997.”

Wilson, R. (2014) “Wayfaring Path: Profiles of a Modern Teacher.”

Why I Loved Co-Teaching


– By Robin Fogarty

Why did I love co-teaching? It’s simple and it’s complicated. It’s simple, because when I look back, I know in my heart, it was the best teaching I ever did. It was complicated because we learned constantly, coached each other continually and reflected every single day. We also celebrated successes with the students who were always at the center of our decision-making.

Our circumstances were unusual as we had a multiage classroom of 8-12 year olds, in a double room with a flexible, folding wall and two teachers of different backgrounds and teaching experiences, in different grade levels. We taught all subject areas, encouraged families and siblings to enroll, and invited parents to volunteer in whatever ways they could. So, yes, it is simple to say I loved co-teaching. But, I’m definitely not saying it was easy to pull off. It was not easy for either of us, or for the students, who at times, looked like deer in the headlights.

Even though we had planned and planned and planned…we revisited, reorganized and rearranged, reviewed and retreated any number of times, yet, what we realized was, no, it was not easy, but it was surely worth every ounce of knowledge and knowhow we were learning. At the end of the day, we knew our students had experienced valuable lessons of learning and of life in an environment rich with content, relevant with the varied groupings we used, and rigorous with the mindfulness required.

What Exactly Did I Love About Co-teaching?

More specifically, here are some of the reasons I love co-teaching as a viable and proven model to support our students in their inherently personal learning journeys. These were the attributes of that dynamic model of teachers teaming to provide the best of the best for our students.

I loved the collegial partnership, the reflective culture, instructional flexibility, the necessity for creativity, the natural collaborative environment, the range of academic content and the life lessons of tolerance, leadership and kindness for all.

Collegial Partnership:

Two heads ARE better than one. Four hands are better than two. It’s called synergy. One leads, one facilitates; both lead, both facilitate parallel groups; one facilitates small groups, one coaches one on one; both conduct individual reading conferences or math check-ins; one works in the room, one in computer lab or library. The partnership affords creative uses of both professional with equal footing for both.

Culture of Reflection:

The reflective moments at the beginning and end of the day are invaluable as professional growth experiences. So much is voiced and considered explicitly that seldom happens when working as the sole teacher in the room. Just the ongoing comments, questions and concerns throughout the day are teachable moments for both.

Instructional Flexibility/ Spiraling Curriculum

  • Individuals

Reading and math seem to work best with individualized, data-driven materials, specifically designed resources, varied methods, and student/teacher conferences, to monitor progress and stay intently connected to the student and his well-being.

  • Small Group

Of course this model is punctuated by small group interactions for typical skill development in vocabulary, higher order thinking skills for comprehension strategies and deeper understanding. These groups are flexible and constantly changing as the talents  and needs are determined.

  • Whole Group

Flexibility means using the whole class model, particularly in social studies, health and science that have spiraling curricula and also often may warrant class field trips, presentations and performances. Writing exercises, art projects, science experiments provide opportunity to move through all three constructs- individual, team and whole class with both teachers intently involved in the planned lessons.

Creative Innovation

Creative innovation is a given when the structures change in fundamental ways. With co-teaching both students and teachers are acutely aware that this is different than one teacher, one class. They are a little anxious, but the students are also eager to see how the day changes. The human brain loves novelty, it’s how teachers get focused attention from the kids. This co-teaching strategy offers the perfect setting and resources for inventive collaborations as the various advantages emerge with each new development. Learn to enjoy the freedoms it offers for good solid teaching and learning and don’t fret too much about the restrictions you might feel.

Habits of Mind:

Perhaps the most powerful outcome of the co-teaching process, and it is ultimately a rewarding process, are the life lessons that evolve as the teacher/student interactions become more complicated, versatile and changing. From these novel circumstances, student attitudes, dispositions and habits of mind seem to percolate. They learn tolerance for others as teachers model collaboration and student groupings constantly change; they learn leadership skills, as teachers model shifting roles and students start stepping up or stepping in as needed to help out, and most of all, the entire experience somehow speaks to kindness and caring for all involved. Why? I’m not sure, but that’s what I always saw happen in my team-teaching experiences.

In Closing

What I know is this. You too will learn to love co-teaching as you have time together to talk candidly about your greatest fears, and your highest expectations. Your team develops as you begin to look at models of co-teaching and configurations that work for your class and as you get down to the nitty-gritty of what you each will actually be doing. And the trust evolves, as you both learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as earnest partners designing the teaching and learning for YOUR class. Enjoy the learning adventure!



All About Personalized Learning

What is personalized learning?
Is it something new?
Or something we already do?     

It is the next generation of
Differentiated instruction,
Student-centered classrooms,     

Individual data, goals and plans,
Awareness of strengths, weaknesses,
Readiness, interests and modalities.     

Personalized learning is all about
Student-agency, independence,
Ownership in one’s own learning,  

Personalized learning is
Self-directed, self-monitored
And self-evaluated…

It’s accomplished with
Deliberate practice with
Reach and repeat routines.

It’s ignited by one’s passion,
Rooted by growing talent,
Supported by expert coaching.

Personalized learning is one’s
Persistence to persevere,
Willingness to listen and learn.

It’s all about building character.
CHANGE what needs changing
CHALLENGE oneself to a personal best

CHOICE to do or not to do what it takes
CHAMPION of one’s personal quest
Supported by unrelenting believers in you.

  Brian M. Pete and Robin J. Fogarty 2018 

1Day on-site PD Description RFA PersonalizedLearning

 In Brief  …

CHANGE SOMETHING: Personal Pathway, Pacing, Performance or Product

CHALLENGE POTENTIAL: Self-Reflective Data-Driven Decisions

CHOICE-MAKER: Ownership of Personal Goals and Choices

CHAMPION CAUSE: Talents and Needs for Personal Best


Transfer and Application: Personalized Learning

By unlocking student talent with new information about how to develop personal expertise, teachers can increase student fluency in READING that results in deeper comprehensions skills with all reading matter.

In fact, using “deliberate practice” in WRITING, a “reach and repeat routine” keeps students performing at the edge of their potential. Practices that are deliberate are ignited with iterations to achieve a personal best. Practices are scheduled frequently, unusually brief, and coached with “actionable” feedback to ensure “reachfulness”.

Rather than continuing the typical, over-used and under-productive, “skill and drill” cycle of boring redundancies, using deliberate practice protocols develop student fluency in basic math facts, and foundational algorithms that impact student performance in all future MATH classes.


A Passion for Learning: Nine Ways to Motivate Students

 (Blogpost Part 1 of 3) Based on excerpts from, Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise: Fogarty, Kerns, Pete: Get even more insights into motivation—and the explore the other two elements of student talent, practice and coaching—by purchasing your copy of Unlocking Student Talent today. 

 Research has shown that experts are made, not born—and motivation is the spark that sets students on the path to mastery. It is the first key element of the new science of expertise. Together with practice and coaching, motivation empowers students to reach their fullest potential.

However, as researchers K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool have noted, educators are unlike sports or music coaches: they “must help every child improve their performance and start building skills, no matter how little motivation they may have.” Based on Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise, the latest book by Robin J. Fogarty, Gene M. Kerns, and Brian M. Pete, this guide provides practical strategies for sparking a passion for learning in every student.

Inspiring Motivation: Starting the Journey

Inspiration is the initial ignition, the flash of discovery, the “aha” moment where a student decides what they want to do and where they want to go. It’s how all great journeys get started.
Increase exposures to new and diverse experiences.

The more experiences that students have—and the more diverse those experiences are—the more likely students are to discover new interests or abilities they want to pursue. From show-and-tells in the classroom to field trips to museums, theaters, and businesses, each new experience is an opportunity for inspiration.

Explore stories of greatness.

Videos, stories, and examples of successful individuals—especially those who overcame an initial lack of talent, such as ballerina Misty Copeland being told she had the wrong body type and was too old to start ballet at age 13—can help students realize their own potential for greatness.

Eliminate the idea of average.

When the US Air Force decided to make an airplane cockpit based on the “average pilot,” they made a startling discovery: Not one of the pilots was average! Instead of comparing themselves to an average that doesn’t really exist, encourage students to focus on what makes them unique or how they would like to be unique.

Invigorating Motivation Continuing the Momentum

As students progress along their talent journeys, they’re bound to stumble at some point. There are roadblocks, frustrations, and failures. Invigoration is how the tough keep going, even when the going gets tough.
Set personalized goals.

It’s easier to get where you’re going when you have a specific destination in mind. Setting personalized goals according to student’s interests, starting point, and learning needs is a great way to keep students motivated and moving forward. For big endeavors, consider setting a series of smaller goals leading up to the larger success.

Track progress visually.

Once personalized goals are set for each student, help them find ways to track their daily, weekly, or monthly progress toward those goals in a highly visual way. This can be as simple as crossing off days on a calendar, keeping an activity log, or coloring in a thermometer. It could also be more creative, like adding rings to a paper chain or adding pieces to a do-it-yourself puzzle.

Get up and moving.

Physical activity is a brain-friendly way to motivate students! Movement causes oxygen to push into the brain and energize the mind as well as the body. Even if it’s just to gather supplies for an impending activity, getting up and moving around can boost engagement.

Instilling Motivation: Becoming the Destination

At a certain point, the goals we pursue become part of who we are. Motivation is intensified, internalized, and instilled within each student; pursuits become personal; and learning transforms into a life-long endeavor.

Envision the future self.

Ask students to envision who they will be and what they will do in the future. Have them create a vision board or a collage depicting their dreams and aspirations fulfilled. Focusing on this vision, encourage students to start thinking about the steps they need to take to get there.

Make daily affirmations.

There is real power in telling ourselves that we can—that we will—accomplish something. Tennis star Serena Williams kept up her motivation during one competition by collecting matchbooks and writing affirmations in them. Have students include an affirmation on each piece of homework they turn in or worksheet they complete to get them in the habit of daily affirmations.

Explore colleges, careers, and job pathways.

Not every student knows what they want their future to look like. Help them explore the possibilities through school-sponsored career days, guest speakers in the classroom, field trips that offer authentic learning experiences, and the promotion of positive role models from history as well as current events.

Thanks to the support of our co-author, Gene Kerns and his fabulous team at Renaissance Learning for sharing.