Feedback in the School Library

Feedback in the School Library - Feedback is important when done correctly. Surprisingly, School Librarians can use feedback with students during library activities, and here are some suggestions... #NoSweatLibrary #feedback #teachingstrategiesGiving feedback is one of the most misunderstood aspects of teaching. Many teachers confuse feedback with grading. Feedback is not a Grade! It’s not written comments on a finished project, nor even an assessment rubric. Feedback is what we give a student before grading an assignment. It can be in many forms, including written comments or a rubric, but feedback guides a student toward overcoming errors and misunderstandings as they work to achieve the learning goal.


Before I became a school librarian I taught Biology, Chemistry, and Physical Science for 8 years in an at-risk alternative high school. In order for students to receive high school credit in a course, they had to get at least a B grade on every single assignment. Believe me, when you take a 14-year-old with a 3rd-grade reading level through 2 semesters of high school biology and end up with one of the best culminating essays you’ve ever read, you’ve developed a lot of feedback strategies! What I learned about feedback during my years with these discouraged students is exactly what researchers have confirmed:

  • Feedback focuses on specific knowledge and/or skills.
  • Feedback shows a student how to improve to get to where they need to be—and the how may need to be different for each student.
  • Feedback comes regularly throughout the learning process.
  • Feedback is upbuilding and interactive between student and teacher.

I admit that the alternative setting allows for a lot more direct, hands-on feedback and guidance than a regular classroom setting, but there are a number of feedback strategies that can be used with larger groups of students without overwhelming a teacher. You may not realize you are already using the feedback mechanisms on this short list of direct student-teacher interaction and between-students interaction (so you can provide direct feedback as needed):

Direct Student-Teacher Interaction Between-Student Interaction
  • Content-Literacy Graphic Organizers
  • Shorthand List of Codes for Comments
    and Student Responses
  • Single-Point Rubric
    (I reject standard rubrics!)
  • Student Comments Rubric
  • Answer Stations
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Chat Stations
  • Reciprocal Learning


It may surprise you that I still use the same feedback strategies for my Library Lessons. It’s a little more challenging to provide feedback within a single class period, since I may not interact with those students again for awhile. This is the most important point about feedback: it isn’t just from student to teacher, to see what they’ve learned; it requires the teacher to respond back to the student in a timely manner with some specific guidance. Group sorting activity

Thus, an Exit Ticket isn’t feedback unless the teacher does something with it the next day; a quiz isn’t feedback if it isn’t scored and returned until the end of the week. That’s why I use a lot of graphic organizers and student discussion for Library Lessons—the teachers and I can roam the library tables listening and guiding students during the activity to make sure they’re achieving the purpose of the lesson.

For a simple activity asking students to locate something in the library, like a particular book on a shelf, they raise their hands when it’s located, and a teacher or I tell them if it’s correct or we guide them toward figuring out why it’s not, then allow them to find the correct location. Specific, timely, direct. And quickly done even with two full classes of students.

School Librarians can consider an overdue notice as feedback, if done as such. Many librarians run overdue notices on a regular basis—weekly or every other week—to be handed out to students in a class or homeroom. I abandoned that practice. I do run overdue notices at the end of each semester in order to clear students for exams, as required by my principal, but otherwise, I have a better solution.

Overdue Bookmarks

Click to enlarge

I created a set of funny overdue notice bookmarks. When a student comes to check out a book and I see they have an overdue one, I grab a bookmark, write the title of the overdue book on it, then put it inside their current book, all the while chatting them up about finding and returning that overdue book. With a bookmark, the student sees it every time they read their current book, and whether at school or home, it reminds them to find and return the overdue book.

Another strategy is to invite the student to use my phone at the circulation desk to call their home or their own phone and leave a voice message about the overdue. When they or their parents get home and check messages, the reminder prompts a search for the overdue book to be returned the next day. The bookmark or the phone call takes a little more time, but both are specific and timely, direct between the student and I, and upbuilding rather than demoralizing. The knowledge/skill I am building with these two strategies? How to be organized and responsible.


I just read an ASCD article on Feedback (how timely!), where the author writes:

According to Prensky (2007), the addictiveness of video games can be partly attributed to the constant stream of feedback they provide. At each level of the game, players learn what works and what doesn’t, and they can immediately use that knowledge to advance to more challenging levels. And researchers have found that the same dynamic applies in education: One of the most powerful keys to unlocking student motivation and perseverance is feedback.

If we tackle feedback as if making a game of it, we can come up with innumerable pleasant and productive strategies to use in the classroom or the school library.

With so much research support for feedback, it makes sense for every educator to use feedback, and, more importantly, to do it correctly, to build student knowledge and skills!

4/13/17 – Just came across this excellent article that can provide some additional insight on feedback:

Why Giving Effective Feedback Is Trickier Than It Seems.

line of books laying down - indicates end of blog article

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4 thoughts on “Feedback in the School Library

  1. A comprehensive discussion about feedback. I particularly liked your strategy for getting students to return their overdue books. I think often processes are often followed even though the data tells us that they aren’t working, so I think it is great how you have thought outside the box.

    • Thank you Catherine, for your comments. I really appreciated your post, as well, especially the new terms I can use!

  2. Very informative post! I like the reference to the ACSD article on feedback. That definitely helps to stress the importance of giving relevant and timely feedback to help students achieve. Great post!

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