Academic Lens: Feedback Loops and the Growth Narrative

Posted by Scott Allenby


As we approach the end of September, students have navigated their first major assessments in their classes and have settled into a rhythm at Proctor. This week and into next, parents, advisors, dorm parents, coaches, and students will begin to receive the first Official Notes from classroom teachers reflecting on these first few weeks of class. The short, informative comments included in these notes provide insights to each student’s recent performance in class, but more importantly, serve as the foundation of an on-going narrative we use to engage students in reflection upon their own growth.


This timely, formative feedback mechanism has been a part of Proctor’s culture for over forty years and has never been tied solely to academic courses, but aimed at capturing the whole of a student’s growth while at Proctor. What once entailed teachers scribbling notes on carbonless copy paper and putting them in advisor and student mailboxes, has evolved through our myProctor teacher/student/parent portal system to allow immediate delivery of feedback to each student’s entire support network multiple times throughout each term.


Whether an Official Note discusses a student’s recent test score, repeated tardiness to class, consistent attendance at extra help sessions, a positive attitude, reluctance to engage, or simply acknowledges a random act of kindness, trends (whether positive or negative) emerge through this integrated communication system. As every new Proctor student quickly discovers, your support network (teachers, advisors, dorm parents, coaches) know everything and are very good at connecting the dots in order to best support each individual student.


While we love how the robust narrative that quickly develops through the Official Note system informs our conversations with our advisee's parents, the single most powerful aspect of this feedback loop is the opportunity to engage each of our advisees, athletes, or dorm residents in face-to-face conversations. In a world where technology empowers instantaneous communication, the impact of a face-to-face conversation with a student about what is going on in his or her life will never be replicated.


As Official Notes begin to stream into our inboxes, we must remember the purpose of this feedback system is to empower each student to actively reflect on his or her own learning and to adjust study habits, behavior, or strategies accordingly. Therefore, our advice to parents is the same advice we give ourselves each term: read the Official Note, take a moment to reflect on the feedback within the context of that individual student, and then engage in a face-to-face conversation with your advisee/child where we take the primary role of listener, and then finally, only after we have listened to what our advisee/student/child has to say, work with each student’s support team to develop a plan to move that student forward in his or her own personal journey.

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