Are you still using verbal feedback stamps?
Please tell me you don’t use verbal feedback stamps. If you do stamp children’s books to indicate that verbal feedback has taken place, then you have clearly lost your way.
verbal feedback stamp
/ˈvəːb(ə)l ˈfiːdbak stamp/
“initially rejected as “not solving any actual problem” on the BBC television programme Dragon’s Den, this product later found minor success as novelty prank gift alongside the pet rock, the DVD rewinder and shoe umbrellas; it is still unknown whether its subsequent introduction into schools was intended as a continuation of the joke or whether it was actually serious.”
Verbal feedback stamps (VFS) add zero value to learning. These have no impact so why are you using them? You might think they are ‘very useful‘ but think again.
What Do The Experts Say?
Some might argue that in some cases VFSs could work but as Michael Tidd (2016) says, “In schools where verbal feedback is truly valued, it probably isn’t necessary.” Giving children’s books a good stamp and decorating them with cheap ink might make you feel better but what contribution do they make to an individual learner?
Teachers that use VFSs are doing it because they think this counts as evidence that some sort of verbal feedback has taken place – it doesn’t. They think that when an observer looks through a child’s books and sees the stamp then everything is honky-dory – it isn’t. As David Didau (2014) says in his book The Secret of Literacy, “I hate the idea of verbal feedback stamps in pupils’ books – who are we doing this for?”
It gets worse. Some have different coloured stampers for different subjects and yes, you can even buy ‘jumbo teacher stamps’ and treat your class like its a game of bingo. Then it gets ridiculous… some teachers then asked their children to summarise the verbal feedback they had been given in writing next to the stamp to prove that it actually took place. Then they marked it with a tick and comment!
Time To Stamp On It
I don’t really think this is what the Workload Review deemed a “meaningful, manageable and motivating” approach to marking. No, passport stamping 30 books with VF does not pass the 3Ms challenge. The report of the workload review group on marking acknowledges that ‘marking is a vital element of teaching, but when it is ineffective it can be demoralising and a waste of time for teachers and pupils alike.’
I know teachers who have used them to stamp books merely to say they had spoken to a child, This does not therefore qualify as evidence of dialogue and formative feedback. Then there are those who have used them to stamp books where no feedback has taken place. They say “but it looks good” – ah, the joys of accountability.
Of course verbal feedback serves an important function – but let’s keep verbal feedback for what it is intended: teachers having quality conversations with their students. Some teachers love their VFSs and see them as ‘a great addition to the toolkit’ pointing out a number of benefits. Apart from it being quick and effortless they say it:
- can be highly regular
- gives a higher profile to the vebal feedback that students receive
- allows them to log and record their own personalised improvement strategies
- makes me as a teacher think about the verbal feedback I am giving
- gives a purpose to the feedback I am giving as a teacher
- makes the student respond to the feedback and so closing the feedback loop
Yes, VSFs are things you can sit alongside your lollypop sticks. Okay, kid yourself they make a difference but they don’t. Well, perhaps they do save time – instead of writing VF in green pen and drawing a circle around it in red pen to indicate ‘Verbal Feedback’ given then the use of a stamper will save you 0.67 secs and that has to amount to something by the end of the year. We really have lost our way.
Rubber Stamping Nonsense
So VSFs have some supporters but not many. Mary Myatt (2016) says, “Why would anyone use these? A waste of time and ink.”
VFSs are part of the marking madness teachers have been subjected to and the feedback frenzy they have also subjected themselves to. Stop using them. Verbal feedback is what it is and we don’t need a stamper to supposedly show it has taken place. When feedback is effective it is done live and initiated by students.
Conti (2017) suggests that students can be more active in the process of feedback by using a technique called L.I.F.T or Learner Initiated Feedback Technique “whereby the students ask the teachers for feedback themselves.”
Stamps on students’ work that indicate that you have given verbal feedback are a by-product of a broken system that requires teachers to evidence feedback to internal and external observers. They are absolute nonsense!
What other Fads have you wasted your time on? Read 20 Years of Educational Fads to find out.