How can disadvantaged schools move away from the burden of written feedback, and evidencing it?
One of the best things about visiting teachers in schools across the world is hearing more about the work they are doing. Occasionally, I get to hear about some of the work I have done and how this has made a difference.
In early September, I had the privilege of visiting and working with the teachers at a school ‘not too far away from you’. I was lucky enough to meet a teacher who told me about her dissertation she had submitted for the Masters in Educational Leadership at the University of Buckingham.
I was excited to hear more about her work to promote verbal feedback, and that she had referenced my research with Mark Quinn at University College, London: Verbal Feedback Project.
This particular case study used a mixed-methods approach to “investigate the impact of verbal feedback methods on three key focuses: student engagement with feedback; student progress and attainment; and teacher workload and wellbeing.” The project zooms in on a non-selective mixed secondary academy and is part of a wider academy trust, situated in a small coastal town on the East of England.
The implementation of verbal feedback methods
The project unpicks teacher workload, particularly marking and the implementation of verbal feedback methods. One question I have (regularly) received from publishing the UCL research, is how do you evidence verbal feedback?
We as a profession appear to be obsessed with ‘evidence’. In the original report, I provide a good range of documentation to highlight how verbal assessment can be evidenced over time in day-to-day classrooms.
This dissertation report highlights the challenges that disadvantaged schools face, in this example, a coastal town where typically, teachers work longer hours and are often asked (in their marking and feedback policies) to mark once a week (by frequency) and with a specific coloured pen (compliance).
The case is made clear in this report, highlighting how challenging schools (also) face unique and additional challenges. The result? Recruitment issues make good teaching strategies difficult to embed, performance tables hinder productivity and accountability begins to dominate conversations and long-term sustainable practice.
“Teachers would provide feedback to students about their work involved moving away from the traditional approach of providing written comments on student’s work.”
This study aimed to see if changes in teacher behaviour, particularly feedback practice, had a positive impact on teachers and students. Student engagement, student progress and attainment and teacher workload were evaluated.
From the sample of data available, the author can “conclude that the new feedback method had a positive impact on teacher workload.” In terms of evaluating the impact on student engagement, the author recognises that the pandemic hindered sufficient data collection to draw any meaningful conclusions. However, there is an interesting reflection posed on page 32.
In terms of an impact on student progress and attainment? Whilst the pandemic did hinder the physical research in this project, the author concludes that 47 per cent of students improve their attainment after receiving the new feedback methods.
One key recommendation I took away from reading the paper was that investment in staff training to understand and implement verbal feedback methods is required. I’d say, it’s required all across the country if we are to reduce the marking burden for teachers and reshape the narrative with parents and inspectors.
Why do we assume written feedback is the best form? Feedback, feed up and feedforward; written (feedback), verbal feedback and non-verbal feedback. There are at least six different types and 16 different influences that impact the success (or not) of our methods.
If you’re looking for further evidence of verbal feedback, this research project should provide you and your school leadership team with food for thought.
It is worth noting that the pandemic did influence the sample data collected.