Have school leaders and inspectors forgotten why verbal feedback is routine, important and often, unobserved?
‘Verbal Feedback Given’ and ‘Achieved lesson objective’ stamps. Highlighting the learning intention. A certain number of ticks next to the lesson objectives. Highlighting success criteria. Traffic lighting. All these are habits we have become accustomed to in order to prove we have given feedback to our learners.
Has marking become something we do to appease management and, ultimately, inspectors?
How many hours spent marking?
Marking children’s work has got to be one of the hardest and unrelenting aspects of every teacher’s job. I have lost count of the number of extra hours I’ve spent writing my feedback in children’s books in the form of stars and wishes, highlighting parts of the success criteria and stamping the living daylights out of every tiny piece of work.
Marking is madness
Written feedback doesn’t often require any action from the child when they read it, nor can it regularly challenge them if it does. Not least, feedback is most effective when it is instant. Marking, unless when teaching pen in hand, cannot be instant. I found myself wondering if there was a better way to give children quality feedback and, if possible, to allow them to also feedback to me how they felt about their learning.
Does marking have any impact?
If the extra hours spent accumulatively over a term were worth it, I wouldn’t have had a problem with marking, as all teachers want to have an impact. The truth is, it was making little difference and it was negatively impacting my work-life balance.
It wasn’t until I taught in a school that expected around forty-five minutes of spelling and reading time per day, which required no teacher input, that I began to see an alternative. In this school, there was also no marking policy, just a teaching and learning policy which made no reference to marking, only feedback. So, I took the opportunity to not only improve my work-life balance but to improve the feedback that I could give and receive – immeasurably.
I now facilitate feedback meetings for all thirty-one learners in my class, every week. There are between five and ten minutes where each child can expect my undivided attention. They are expected to bring their literacy and numeracy books and we will focus on one or two pieces of work they have recently completed.
I now have more time in my evenings and weekends. More importantly, children know they have an audience. They also know that they can get one-to-one support during this time if they need any misconceptions explained again. They also have a forum in which they can receive extra challenge and motivation.
Finally, they know that they are going to be held accountable for the work they produce.
How could this feedback policy for your school?
- Each class teacher is free to determine with their class how they will provide feedback.
- Pupils should be able to explain how they get feedback from their class teacher.
- There is no expectation that verbal feedback will be recorded.
- There is an expectation (note, the document below says “exception”) that feedback will have a direct impact on pupils’ outcomes.
What can teachers do instead?
Let’s stop validating and appeasing observers – whether inspectors or school leaders – and expect a little more trust in our classrooms. If people visiting a classroom are looking for evidence of meaningful feedback, focusing on compliant-evidence, such as symbols and stamps to suggest action or consistency, we only have ourselves to blame for fuelling workload and a teacher mental-health crisis.
Where is the professional courtesy, respect and degree of understanding?
Tracking marking by stamps and traditional marking methods suggest that the observer does not have the pupils’ and teachers’ best interests at heart, and is someone who is more concerned with methods to support their bias and or someone who is keen to justify their role…