Effective Feedback Motivates Students & Drives Student SuccessDecember 9, 2022
A Story of Teacher & Student Success
Connecting With Students Provides Powerful Outcomes
We all remember our favorite teachers and most often they were the ones we had a strong connection with. Creating a connection builds a solid bridge between teacher and student and allows communication, security, respect, and learning to travel in both directions. This bridge can be built from many angles and from many materials, but a connection is always the first building block. Some may wonder where teachers find that crucial first piece? Often, it is carefully forged and cultivated from seemingly small moments and small actions. A thoughtful response to an answered question, words of encouragement when a student is struggling, or it can be tiny trophies in the form of digital stickers or badges for a job well-done.
Teachers are master bridge builders, and with technology now in the classroom, it can be the conduit that strengthens the structures and creates even stronger throughways. The key is helping students find a link to the content that is taught and bolstering their abilities and interests. One skillful designer is Rebekah Kitchin, an educator, Digital Organization Specialist, and educational technology enthusiast.
Rebekah Kitchin has been in the field of education for 34 years, and she knew this was her calling before it was her profession. During her time in the classroom, Rebekah filled many roles and shoes- teaching music, K-6, middle school English, high school English, and online English and electives throughout her career. These different positions gave her a tremendous perspective on how to best reach her students. Rebekah grew up in Alaska and moved to southern California in search of her future. After graduating, she found a permanent position as an elementary school teacher and on the precipice of technological integration. Rebekah recalls having her first computer added to her classroom in 1990 and taking the beginning steps of integration. This is where her love for technology in the classroom took root. Connection is also about feeling important, so Rebekah strove to ensure that made it mandatory that student feedback was personalized and constructive.
“Initially, I put it (the computer) off in a corner because it didn’t really apply to anything that I was doing on a daily basis. I remember when I sat down at it for the first time, looking at the language program and finding it so incredibly engaging that I just completely lost track of time. It wasn’t until several years down the road when the computer became more applicable to what students were doing, but I could see it at that point, and I embraced the technology along the way whenever I could utilize it.”
Rebekah saw early on, the engagement and power that technology offered, and these technological baby steps evolved over the years into the masterful stride of a marathon runner that she is today.
Shifting Gears to Parenting
Rebekah gained tremendous experience as a traditional classroom teacher while teaching in California, but as her family grew she transitioned away from the classroom and found a new educational delivery method in online homeschooling. This presented the opportunity for her to see how technology could enhance learning, whether that be a traditional classroom, a home office, or somewhere else.
“I really found love in the online aspect and saw how powerful it can be for kids.” In 2008, things came full circle for Rebekah. She moved back home to Alaska and accepted a position in her hometown school district, eventually working English teacher at the same high school she graduated from. However, this transition wasn’t free from ominous skies. As many teachers have experienced, Rebekah found herself in the scary position of facing layoffs, or reduction in force initiatives (RIF), due to budget cuts, but those dark clouds came with silver linings. Rebekah was offered a position position with the iTech Online Learning Program in her district, which she excitedly accepted. It was during this time that she started developing those first building blocks for her well-crafted bridge.
Impacting Students Through Abundant Offerings
Rebekah spent the last four years of her career as an online educator within the Matanuska-Susitna School District in her home state of Alaska. The Matanuska-Susitna School District is very large, serving 19,000 students in 46 schools across Mat-Su Borough, which each enroll 15 to 1,300 students. From very rural areas to quite populated regions, students bring a wide range of needs, interests, and challenges. During her tenure, Rebekah’s focus was on high school students, a critical developmental stage where interests emerge and develop. Often, in districts that are smaller, specialized classes or subjects that are not a part of a traditional curriculum cannot be offered because highly qualified teachers are not available within the district or the curriculum simply isn’t accessible. The Matanuska-Susitna School District didn’t want their students to suffer from limited educational resources, so they implemented an engaging, robust curriculum: eDynamic Learning. eDynamic Learning offers over 250 online courses, and thanks to the wide range of curriculum, Rebekah was able to facilitate unique and interesting classes such as American Sign Language, Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Education, Nutrition and Wellness, Personal Psychology, and many more. Through Rebekah’s innovative teaching techniques, the ability to build connections with her students, and implementation of eDynamic Learning’s comprehensive curriculum, her students were able to thrive and pursue interests they otherwise might not have had access to. Whether teaching virtually by choice, or due to extenuating circumstances, many educators have witnessed firsthand the challenges that can come with teaching in an online setting. If online classes are not conducted in the right way, student engagement can waver, student work can suffer, and the connection between student and teacher can be nonexistent. However, Rebekah found that using sound teaching strategies for student success, coupled with the available tools within the eDynamic Learning curriculum, she was able to help students flourish.
Customizing the Curriculum to Reach Students’ Unique Needs
Over her years in education, Rebekah has seen how critical timely, targeted feedback can be to establish a connection with students and to help students succeed. Delivering feedback is a staple in the traditional classroom and she believes it shouldn’t change just because students are virtual. Within eDynamic Learning lives built-in features developed to allow teachers to provide focused, opportune feedback within each individual assignment. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum also contains an internal messaging feature, virtual announcements, and digital notes. Rebekah was able to take advantage of these different tools to encourage, educate, communicate, and connect with her students.
“The feedback window is everything. There were so many different ways I could interact with students.”
Connection is also about feeling important, so Rebekah strove to ensure that made it mandatory that student feedback was personalized and constructive.
“I made sure the student was addressed by name. I made sure to give the student some kind of positive feedback and then constructive feedback so that they knew what to work on next time. I was also sure to sign my name and own the feedback. Simply putting those elements in automatically would personalize the feedback for the student.”
Within the curriculum teachers may provide feedback in the form of resource links that can help a student with their work or connect them with their interests on a topic. Teachers can also add videos or images to further illustrate or explain a concept to help guide students. If a student is struggling with a written assignment, Rebekah often takes screen captures of the rubric to help students frame their responses, or how to correctly format a header or source. Since eDynamic Learning has the tools in place for personalized feedback to be delivered, it helped Rebekah more easily create that bridge between her and her students.
Targeting Feedback with Playful Tools
Rebekah also likes to up the ante and have fun with her students’ feedback. As we know, technology has been integrated into all aspects of our lives, and Rebekah was able to leverage apps and tools to connect with and further personalize feedback for her students.
“Bitmojis work fantastically. Just emojis, which are already built into the eDynamic Learning feedback tools, are nice to throw in with feedback, but Bitmojis that are thoughtful and that apply to the student’s work are even better. Emojis something that students love, because they use them daily themselves, but taking the time to find a Bitmoji that looks like their teacher with a phrase that actually applies to the teacher’s feedback comment means even more. The teacher is taking the time to think about them. To make them laugh and to have fun with them. They won’t always let you know that they like it at the time, but I’ve had a lot of students tell me at the end of the school year how much they looked forward to getting those. Feedback, with that little extra effort, goes a long way.”
When a bridge between student and teacher can be built from a common ground stemming from shared interests and tools, the foundation will be more solid and the connection that much stronger. Rebekah Kitchin is a master architect who was able to establish strong connections with her students using tried and true methods and simple yet powerful tools. We thank Rebekah for taking advantage of what eDynamic Learning has to offer and for having such a positive impact on her students because of it.
Rebekah was recently recognized by eDynamic Learning as a 2022 Career Compass Award recipient for her incredible work with her CTE students in helping guide passion to purpose. We know she will continue to inspire students and teachers to personalize instruction that motivates students through effective feedback.