SE2R Feedback Revolutionizes How We Assess Learning

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SE2R. In an education world rife with abbreviations and acronyms, SE2R may, at first glance, look like one more way for bureaucrats to get teachers’ attention. Unlike NCLB, SLO, BEDS, RTTT and other initiatives in this alphabet soup of so-called reform, SE2R is the real deal — an abbreviation that represents something simple, yet revolutionary.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am vested in SE2R, not only because of its unique impact on assessment, but because it’s my baby, so to speak — a narrative feedback system that creates a class environment that is conducive to mastery learning.

How it works

Years ago, I decided to eliminate traditional grades from my classroom. I stopped placing numbers, percentages and letters on anything and everything my students completed. Instead, we assessed learning through conversation and narrative feedback. While students quickly grew accustomed to discussing their activities and projects, it was important to give them a system that would make sense. The formality and rigidity of grades disappeared, replaced by the simplicity of SE2R — Summarize, Explain, Redirect, Resubmit.

What makes SE2R so powerful is its objectivity (the system doesn’t judge) and the opportunity for mastery that the system creates. If students miss a concept or skill, they are asked in the R section of SE2R to revisit prior learning, apply it back to the activity or project and resubmit the work for further observation and feedback. Teachers redirect students daily, but rarely does this mean taking valuable time to go back to a lesson, a model, a video, a peer or even the teacher to slow down the instruction, so the concept or skill can be internalized. This process, though time consuming, is the most critical part of mastery learning.

When I write about SE2R or when I present it at workshops, I’m often asked about the constraints involved in such a system. Where will I find the time to write so much feedback? How do I handle report cards, if I have no grades during the marking period? What will parents say? These are all valid inquiries, but they are not sufficient to continue with traditional grading.

Narrative feedback, using a system like SE2R, is not only powerful, it is the most rewarding thing teachers will ever do.

It’s the power of four simple words.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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