No more scores, only feedback
Last week, I attended the informational meeting that our cheerleading coach held for the girls who would be trying out in the spring for next year’s squad and their parents. Our cheerleading program is making some changing to the tryout process and in an effort to be transparent, our coach and athletic director set up a meeting to inform parents of these changes well in advance of them taking effect so that all questions and concerns could be answered prior to tryouts.
In our area, schools bring in outside judges for cheerleading tryouts. I’m not sure when the practice of using outside judges started, but I hear cheer coaches from many different schools who wish that they could choose their own squad, just as our other athletic coaches choose their own teams. Next year, our cheerleading squad will be chosen by our coaches, and no outside judges will be used.
At the meeting, the cheer coach told the parents and athletes that at the end of tryouts, the coaches would meet with each athlete and let her know if she made it or not. She also told them that they would share feedback with the athletes at the meeting.
What she said next was brilliant.
She told them that the judges wouldn’t be scoring any of the athletes who would be trying out. The coaches will use a rubric and make notes on the rubric, but they won’t have any scores.
Why is this important? The parents and athletes won’t have a ranking system. They won’t gather as many scores as they can from each other to figure out the ranking system of everyone who tried out. They will simply learn what they coach saw in terms of their strengths and/or weaknesses and if they made the team or not.
I believe one of the keys to success with this new system will be in the delivery of the news and the feedback that is given, because
Not all feedback is helpful
My youngest daughter is a high school sophomore this year. What I’m about to share happened in April of her seventh grade year.
Volleyball tryouts were going on at her school for the 8th grade team. She had played on the school’s 7th grade team the previous fall, and she had just finished up a season of club volleyball where she had played a lot and gotten some really good experience with a tough coach.
My husband picked her up from tryouts, and when they walked in the door, she was crying. The coach told her that she didn’t make the team.
The coach told her that the practices would be really hard…
My daughter had just finished a club season and gone through practices that were more demanding than her 7th grade team practices or the 8th grade team practices that my oldest daughter had gone through the previous fall.
And that she wouldn’t get much playing time…
What? The coach knew in April who would be getting playing time in the fall? Did she have a growth mindset about all of the athletes?
My husband and I told our daughter that everything happens for a reason, and there was a reason why this didn’t happen for her. We told her that we had seen her play in club and knew that she was working hard on her volleyball skills. She told us that she still wanted to play in the next club season, and that she was going to try out for the 9th grade team the next spring.
I was proud of my daughter's determination, especially when the feedback that she got from the coach could have led her giving up. (She went on to make the 9th grade team and started and played in every game. Same for this past fall on the junior varsity team.)
There are some important characteristics to giving feedback that make it more effective. One of the most important characteristic is the manner in which it is given. We all respond more positively to feedback when it is given in a positive way. The person giving the feedback should give it with the intent to be helpful and improve performance. It’s important to recognize and praise what was done right, then offer specific feedback that is actionable.
InformED gives 20 tips to giving feedback to students. Here are a few from the website:
Feedback should be educative in nature.
Providing feedback means giving students an explanation of what they are doing correctly AND incorrectly. However, the focus of the feedback should be based essentially on what the students is doing right. It is most productive to a student’s learning when they are provided with an explanation and example as to what is accurate and inaccurate about their work.
Use the concept of a “feedback sandwich” to guide your feedback: Compliment, Correct, Compliment.
Be sensitive to the individual needs of the student.
It is vital that we take into consideration each student individually when giving feedback. Our classrooms are full of diverse learners. Some students need to be nudged to achieve at a higher level and other needs to be handled very gently so as not to discourage learning and damage self-esteem. A balance between not wanting to hurt a student’s feelings and providing proper encouragement is essential.
Have the student take notes.
During a conference over a test, paper or a general ‘check in’, have the student do the writing while you do the talking. The student can use a notebook to jot down notes as you provide the verbal feedback.
You can read all 20 tips here:
I would love to hear your thoughts about feedback. Please leave a comment or connect with me on twitter, @jennifer_hogan.