Can feedback have immediate impact on students?
Written feedback is not always the best, or most appropriate way of critically commenting on children’s work.
In How To Stop Marking Taking Over Your Life, an article that has captured my imagine, Deputy Headteacher, Jeremy Hannay starts off with a vivid analogy of a sports fixture and reminds me of The Observation Scalpel analogy by Roy Blatchford. Much of what is written here is inspired by Hannay and I take no credit for it.
The whistle blows!
It’s the end of the match. The underdogs are in a tough battle to the finish. The players are tired. Can they hold on? All of a sudden, the coach calls for a time-out. He’s spotted a potential weakness in the other team. There is a tactical advantage they could exploit, a move that could change the game. Can they cause a late upset…?
The team hustles round, kneeling in anticipation. A confused look comes over their faces. The coach is writing down what he’d like to say. “I’m almost done!” he shouts, “This is going to be great!”.
The whistle blows and the time-out is over. The team, bewildered by their coach’s odd behaviour, makes its way back onto the pitch. They haven’t been given the information in time. The other team rallies and scores again. The game ends with a devastating loss.
Back in the changing room, the weary, dejected players find a note with ‘Feedback’ written on it. The team captain opens it up. It was the strategy to win the game. Frustrated, they question the coach about his behaviour. “Keep calm,” he says. “We can work on it tomorrow.”
The team, understandably annoyed, tell the coach that they needed to know right away, not the next day.
When people mention ‘research’, they are often referring to one of two documents – The Teaching and Learning Toolkit, originally commissioned by the Sutton Trust, and John Hattie’s Visible Learning, which places feedback in the top five teaching influences on student achievement. Neither publication, however, suggests that written feedback is crucial.
Hannay shows how poorly interpreted research – even OfSTED wants – schools have been driven to adopt widely unsubstantiated (and sometimes outright wrong) ideas:
- That written feedback is the most valuable type
- That the best written feedback is a conversation between pupil and teacher
- That feedback must be evidenced in a book to ‘count’ towards a) progress b) evidence etc.
The idea that written feedback is the best and only kind needs to be put to rest. Not only will this help children learn, it’ll reduce teacher workload ~ Jeremy Hannay
Inspired by this article, Wipe The Slate Clean, I am going to launch an action research project to further reduce workload and improve feedback. Building upon Hannay’s original objectives:
- To dramatically reduce the quantity of written feedback and instead, provide instant verbal feedback in lessons.
- To develop an ethos in which teachers can focus on the learning of the pupils
- To create an environment where teachers can spend their working time dedicated to developing technological feedback strategies
- To foster targeted talk about knowledge and skills
- To encourage pupils to think about where they’re going, how well they are getting on and what’s next.
Over the coming term, we will be asking the following questions in our study.
- What will the project look like?
- Who will be the pilot group?
- How will we evaluate impact?
One thing you can be sure of, no verbal feedback stamps will feature!
As ever, I will report back.