Analyzing teachers’ feedback practices in response to students’ work in science classrooms

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This article presents findings from three studies of teachers' written feedback practices in students' science notebooks in 26 elementary and middle school classrooms. Three questions guided the analysis of the data: (a) Do teachers provide written feedback in response to the scientifically oriented questions students investigate in their science classrooms? (b) If teachers write feedback, what are its characteristics? (c) Do teachers interpret students' responses properly, and do they correctly identify the strengths and weaknesses to tailor the feedback to students' needs? Results indicated that 17 of the 26 teachers provided students with feedback in some form. However, the frequency of this feedback varied from teacher to teacher and across grade levels. From all feedback communications coded across the three studies, about 61% were grades, numbers, or symbols, and only 33% were comments. Furthermore, evaluative comments occurred nearly as frequently as descriptive comments (10% and 14%, respectively) but only 4% of comments were prescriptive.