The Importance Of Student Feedback

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Do you know what your students think?

Challenging behaviour, planning and assessment are constant challenges for teachers in the UK. These undoubtedly contribute to teacher burnout. To help remedy the bureaucracy, I have got into the habit of periodically seeking feedback from my children.

It is always important to obtain feedback from children about their learning. Hearing the opinions of your students, no matter their age, is vital for continuous development, and it is for them we spend so many hours working at home.

Taking control of feedback

One afternoon in the last week of the year, I decided to take control of my own feedback, as feedback was proving hard to come by from colleagues. I instructed the children to write down their three most memorable learning experiences from the whole year. I was left wondering why I didn’t do this more often.

Some of the responses to the exercise were hilarious, and it goes to show some children just want to have a laugh in school, and I cannot begrudge them that. Two personal favourites: “When you learned how to floss.” “When you did a wiggle in that Maths lesson.”

Here is a list of the three most memorable experiences of the year for my children.

1. ‘When the aliens hacked your computer.’

I created a PowerPoint that gave the illusion that my computer had been hacked. While it was just a bit of fun, the children had to work out the perimeter and area of shapes taped onto the classroom floor in order to unlock my computer.

It was impossible to do this task without working with each other, and I saw friendship groups recording perimeter and area on their clipboards frantically during the activity. After we had unlocked my computer, we discussed the importance of internet safety, later creating posters and leaflets.

2. ‘All of the visits to the woods.’

Though the scale and resources of the very ‘outdoorsy’ Finnish education system were impossible to replicate, I got in touch with the local authority’s ranger service. They were able to plan and supervise five visits to the local woodland over five weeks.

We did a river dip to check the health of the ecosystem and to observe invertebrates. We also built dens, learned how to track animals, built fires and cooked marshmallows.

3. ‘When we made rockets and launched them in the park.’

The children had been studying forces in the final term of the year. This project enabled us to put into practice theories around friction, air resistance and gravity. The children were also able to design something of their own and to show their understanding of symmetry.

The pure glee of the children as their rockets were fired 30 metres into the air was infectious. I will certainly be repeating this project in the future.

Acting on feedback – key observations

These learning experiences were all interdisciplinary, which is a huge focus of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, enabling the children to draw together a number of skills. These experiences had no beginning, middle or end, which has been the blueprint for lesson plans for two decades but has been proven to have no impact on a child’s attainment.

Ability groups were not necessary in any of these activities and children mixed and helped one another with the task. I have not used ability groups for over a year now, and would find it difficult to go back.

These activities evoked strong emotions from the children. Fear was the overriding emotion during the ‘hack’, and a number of children approached me for reassurance. I am convinced this is why this small hour long activity was the most memorable experience.

A big pat on the back

This small activity serves as a reminder that, although I lose countless hours of sleep, complain about ‘that child’ more than I care to remember and begrudgingly write thousands of sets of stars and wishes that are never read, I am doing a good job. And so are you.

Nick Burton

Since qualifying as a Primary Teacher, Nick has held a number of teaching positions in the UK. He recently moved to Scotland and is currently working in Midlothian. He loves finding new ways to deliver lessons and use educational spaces in ways that best suit the children he teaches. He is eager to see how the role of the teacher will change in the future.

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