Sunday, May 21, 2017

Feedback Strategy - Praise-Question-Polish (PQP)

One of the key takeaways from the recent webinar is the "PQP" strategy to provide feedback.
(once again, thanks to ETD colleagues who organised the virtual event, and thanks to Dr Tay for her sharing.)

Well, PQP does not only apply to students, i.e. to guide them to give constructive/ useful feedback, but also useful for teachers to frame our feedback to our students. Personally, I would make a more conscious effort to adopt this strategy and role model it.

Mindset change:

Ops! Having said that, I must clarify that it does not mean that I do not provide feedback to my students. Of course, some of us would say, what kind of feedback do you expect Maths teachers to give? Isn't it a tick or cross, or at most, circle the step where the error occurred? Well, yes, that's one form of feedback commonly practised by many of us, especially when we were in our beginning years as teachers. Isn't it "wordy" feedback is more relevant to other disciplines such as languages or humanities?

Not true.
I came to learn that there's a place for this in the subject (as I polish my craft over these years)!

There is a place for the less conventional exercises! For example, alternative assessments or performance tasks that come with rubrics! While writing qualitative feedback is something that I was not used to, I think this is one way students would benefit more (apart from trying to 'interpret' their work quality with a tick or a mark).

Based on my humble experience, the easiest way to give feedback is to make reference to the rubrics - not about lifting the entire description, but to contextualise (or customise) it to the work students have submitted. Students will learn, through the feedback, and make the relevant changes/ improvements/ enhancements to better a piece of work of similar nature. Personally, I observed this change in the quality in the viva voce assignment (as compared to the practice task). Undeniably, it takes time to give feedback and tasks of this scale is not assigned in a regular basis (like once a month). My point here is, given relevant amount of feedback, students will respond and make progress. It's worth the time and effort.

My Personal Reflection:

The next question is, by making reference to the rubrics, is it enough?
You see, I'm trying to make a connection between what I have been doing all this while to the PQP strategy. I think, in my current practice, what's lacking (though not totally missing) is the first "P" - Praise. Being very focused to identify what has gone wrong or incomplete, and targeted to improve,  "Question" and "Polish" are two aspects that I'm familiar with. One area that I will need to work on is the first "P" - Praise.

What we could do: 

Generic praises (such as excellent, "well done") without elaboration are not useful though it makes the day for the learner who receives the praise. Praise needs to be targeted so that it is helpful to affirm and to spur the learner to do even better (hopefully).

Similarly, when it comes to getting students to giving peer feedback, as teachers, we need/ should provide scaffolds so that learners are really giving useful feedback to their peers directed to the context (i.e. related to the task - disciplinary knowledge and skills involved).

"Good job", "Awesome" without elaboration are not very helpful though it motivates the learner.
In fact, before getting students to provide peer feedback, we should ask the following questions
  1. Do students know the purpose/ intent of feedback?
  2. Do they know what are the areas that they should specifically be looking out for when giving feedback (e.g. strategy or aesthetic part of the piece of work?)
  3. Do they know what makes a feedback useful to the recipient?
If these are not clear, they are just going through the motion of giving what they think is feedback.

In my opinion, to make peer feedback a productive one, for beginners involved in giving feedback, it is necessary to discuss the three questions above. With a clear rationale, the PQP strategy would make more sense to the students. On the other hand, stem questions would be necessary and very useful to help them kickstart this peer evaluation process. Though it seems to be very guided, it takes time for one to be familiar before adopting the vocabulary. Last but not least, the teacher needs to model the use so that it becomes something that the students are familiar with before they adopt a similar role (to give feedback).

Indeed, I think we should seek clarity to the following before embarking and getting others (i.e. students) to be involved:
  1. Why Praise?
  2. Why Question?
  3. Why Polish?
As mentioned before, to "praise" is not prominent in my practice. However, I recognise that it helps pointing out to the learner what they have done correctly so that they know they are heading the right direction. It could be in terms of an approach, or a strategy that they adopted, or even a decision made that is sound and grounded with good reasons. It is a form of feedback. As such, we should elaborate so that the message (feedback) is re-enforced. The outcome? One continues to do well in the area highlighted, or one could actually re-strategise/ re-focus to work in areas that need more attention. It is also a means to motivate the learner.

To "question" seems obvious, isn't it? It seems to be a forte of most teachers; but sometimes we might "mix it up" with "polish". To question is about asking "why"? To seek understanding. To probe for clarity. To ask for elaboration. It is quite natural that we could have already passed a judgement to the answer/ working (sub-consciously).
  • Does this sound like the "fault finding" stage? To some extent, yes - with the intent to surface the error/ issue that one might have overlooked so that they can be addressed. So, we need to be mindful of the words and tone used in this stage when giving feedback. And it is important to keep in mind that the feedback is targeted at work and not the person.
  • Indeed, it is important that the recipient of the feedback is clear of the rationale so that he/ she would receive the feedback with an open mind, and not attempt to defend for the sake of defending.
To "polish" is about giving suggestions to make improvements. I guess where we usually come from is to correct the error made, or point out the gaps, or suggest what could be added to the make the solution more complete. On another note, I think it could also be about sharing a different perspective so that the learner could gain a fuller picture on the subject matter that he/ she has been looking into. Of course, this "alternative" may also come in at the "Question" stage. All-in-all, the purpose of this stage is to enhance the outcome. It could be a case of correcting a misconception, or extending the breadth or depth to the matter of discussion.

Point to Ponder:

Indeed, after going crafting the previous section (of the post),  a thought popped-up - Isn't it that we should give the learner some wait time between "Question" and "Polish" stages? With the question, shouldn't we gave the learner time to think, process and respond? If we "polish" almost immediately after the "questions", are we depriving them from learning with our 'prescription'? I wonder.

Well, I guess it all depends on how rigorous the learning activity require the peer feedback to be.
In fact, I think sometimes it would be more effective if we "re-organise and customise" the strategy to become:
  • "Praise" followed by "Question"
  • "Praise" followed by "Polish" 


It is not difficult to find useful stem questions to aid the crafting feedback for the three stages (PQP).

Here are some examples...

  • I like the part where...
  • I like the way you explained...
  • I like the order you used in your writing because...
  • I think the ending was...
  • I was confused with...
  • I didn't understand...
  • Why did you leave out...
  • Why did you include....
  • Don't forget to add...
  • Are your paragraphs in the best order....?
  • Could you add more to this part....?
  • Have  you tried...?
Useful sites:

Technologies for PQP: 

To facilitate documentation so that learners can make reference and learn (in the process of giving/ receiving feedback), we can consider the following tools (note: I've only selected those that I think are common and easy to use):

(i) Padlet(s)

As suggested in the example shared by Dr Tay - Padlet could be used to support the facilitation of the three stages of PQP. In the illustration, one padlet was divided into 3 sections.

One suggestion to enhance the technology:
If one is expecting several responses to each of the stages, it would be good to have 3 different padlets, each one serves a stage so that the feedback would not be messy.

I would possibly use this when first introducing the PQP strategy to students, to see how they provide feedback (for each of the stages) to a common problem. From the padlet posts, they would learn (from their peers) how to provide relevant feedback to the task presented.

Based on experience, the stickies may overlap each other - so, might be a bit challenging to manage. In addition, it would be much neater to set the posting layout to be organised in a grid or linear:

One could also activate the "Comment" feature for the padlet to allow one to respond to the feedback given:

An illustration on how it could look like:

The assumption: Re-classification of stickies is not necessary.

(ii) GoogleForm/ Sheets

GoogleForm is one of the most convenient tools and, it can be 'recycled' to serve a few exercises if what's shown in the form is generic enough.
  • GoogleForm is easy to set up. Broadly, the structure would  to collect the responses using

What I like is that the feedback can be sorted by Problem numbers (or even colour-coded).
In other words, we can use the same form in a classroom where students provide feedback to different sets of answers/ presentations at the same time.

The only draw back is the learner could not respond to the feedback in the spreadsheet unless he/ she has the right to edit the spreadsheet. Again, depending on the maturity of the class, the teacher may choose to give the edit right or not.

(iii) Google Slides or Doc

If Google Slides are used to collate the work, for example, in a language class, students work in pairs to annotate the visual text in an assigned slide; at the end of the activity, the pairs can be assigned to provide feedback to one or two other groups.

We can simply insert the PQP 'structure' in the speakers' notes of the slide so that students can insert their feedback to the peers.

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