Turning the Corner with 360-Degree Feedback

Last week, I shared a primer on feedback. I shared links to a variety of posts I’ve written over the years regarding how to provide good feedback to students and how to embrace “growth mindset” to support student learning. This week, I thought I’d introduce a strategy that I’ve been using with my Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 2.36.45 PMstudents over the last few semesters: 360-Degree Feedback. Before we begin, let’s take a step back.  What is feedback? Hattie (2014) defines feedback as “information allowing a learner to reduce the gap between what is evident currently and what could or should be the case.” But where should that information come from? Traditionally, teachers have relied on some combination of instructor, peer or self-assessments to gather information and provide feedback. Used on their own, the picture can be incomplete. 360-Degree Feedback, however, draws on all three of these types of feedback to provide a more holistic view of a student’s work. Let me give an example.

I’ve been struggling with grouping students in my class. I’ve let students select their own groups and assigned students groups based on their academic standing and schedules. I’ve had students complete the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and assigned groups according to their personality types. Regardless of the method I used, at some point during the semester, I would be pulled in to mediate some serious group issue. After reading Dweck’s Mindset book, however, I realized that I needed to focus on supporting student growth rather than their fixed attributes.  Collaboration and teamwork are properties than can be taught. With the proper feedback and support, students’ abilities in these areas can grow and improve. To do this, however, their ability to work in a team would need to be assessed and feedback would need to be given. Here’s where 360-Degree Feedback comes in.

To support students’ growth as team members and as collaborators, I adopted the AAC&U Teamwork Value Rubric and introduced it during the first day of class. I also discussed the different qualities that made a positive and productive team and explained how we would be supporting each other’s growth during the class. To drive the growth concept home, I had the students self-assess their mindset and discussed the research on growth and fixed mindsets. After setting the stage about the importance of the growth mindset, I explained how we would assess our ability to work in a team at several points during the semester and we would use the feedback to improve.

To make the process work a little more smoothly, I had the students complete self and peer assessments through a Google form and then anonymized the information. I also added my assessment and met with groups and individuals to discuss their teamwork performance. These discussions were a little challenging. Some students weren’t working well as a team member but the rubric provided a more objective way to discuss their performance. I also reiterated that they could grow as a collaborator and that we would be reassessing things later in the semester.

In this situation, coordinating the students’ self-assessment with the ones from their peers and from me helped to provide a more complete picture of the students’ performance. By taking a “360 Degree” view of their work, I was able to support students’ growth as a team member. Looking at the data from the semester, students’ teamwork scores grew by about 4% from their midpoint to their final scores. More importantly, I didn’t have to resolve any group conflict issues during the semester!

While this post discusses one assignment where I’ve applied 360-Degree Feedback, I’ve also used it to support student writing and their research. If you’re thinking about getting started with 360-Degree Feedback, check out this great blog post that summarizes a webinar I gave a few weeks ago.


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