When working with kids, one of the first things I establish is the importance of their honest feedback. I’m especially interested in creating a language to discuss the difficulty level of a lesson or specific task. A numbered rating scale, once defined and practiced, is a useful means of eliciting immediate feedback. While it’s also important to gauge understanding, I can usually assess that without as much direct student feedback. On the other hand, the levels of effort, discomfort or anxiety, and interest can be masked by compliance and a good working relationship.
Feedback on mental effort is especially crucial for twice exceptional students (2e). These are the kids whose giftedness camouflages the energy drain of a lesson. 2e kiddos also enjoy a scale with a broad range of possibilities, so 1 through 10 is often preferable to 1 through 5. It’s worth letting them take the time to adjust the numbers precisely (I got an 8.5 level of difficulty yesterday, which is pretty high). The harder part can be helping them verbalize what features of the task made it so onerous. Just as these students can struggle to differentiate main ideas and details, they may also paint the assignment with a broad brush. Follow-up questioning elicits those details which then change my instructional materials or techniques. Providing kids routine opportunities to evaluate instructional tasks not only validates their efforts but improves their ability to analyze and self-monitor their learning. For me, it’s equally vital for improving my own skills as a teacher. Win-win!