Are you feeding your pupils an effective feedback diet?
It is undeniable that pupil feedback is central to pupil progress and attainment. This surely has to be one of the main aims of teaching.
However, well-intentioned educators often waste their time on ineffective and unnecessary feedback policies rather than evidence-based best practice. Either through habit or due to their school’s rigid policy.
Marking vs. Feedback
Part of the problem with feedback stems from failing to understand the difference between marking and feedback.
- Marking: an act of summative assessment, checking and grading.
- Feedback: a part of formative assessment, used to check understanding, challenge misconceptions, inform teaching and develop pupils’ work.
Whilst marking has a place in our current education system, it shouldn’t be the only student-teacher interaction concerning their work. Schools that push punishing ‘feedback’ (read marking) policies ultimately miss the point and deny teachers the opportunity to explore various pupil feedback techniques.
Making important changes will ultimately benefit the students, the teachers and the school.
Effective feedback has to be more than ‘checking marking’ or ‘What Went Well’, set to a relentless schedule for book scrutiny. Feedback needs to be fluid, adaptable, changeable; meeting the needs of the pupils in front of us and not adding unnecessarily to workload.
Many influences determine feedback success; few schools consider this.
An Effective Pupil Feedback Diet
Effective pupil feedback should see the pupil working harder than the teacher! If you’re spending hours providing detailed and specific feedback, the pupils should engage with your feedback with as much dedication and commitment. However, you should look for low input, and high output feedback tasks.
Feedback should drive understanding and progress: That is to say, the process should clear up misconceptions and should push pupil progress further than it was before.
Feedback should be prioritised in your lessons: For the pupils, proper time needs to be given for feedback. You may even need to explicitly teach pupils how to respond, re-draft, and engage properly with the feedback. It isn’t just a bolt-on activity because we have to; it’s an activity we want to do to improve.
Teach your pupils to be reflective: Ask questions like, ‘How did you figure that out?’, ‘Why is that a good answer?’ and ‘How have you improved this from last time?’. As result, they will become better at responding to feedback.
4 techniques to try?
- Try coded feedback points. This will save you writing the same thing 30 times. Decide on common misconceptions and areas for improvement as you look through a set of books. Apply a letter or symbol code to each new feedback point, and make a note of it. Repeat the code as necessary through the rest of the set of books.
- Try book sampling with whole class feedback. Select a handful of books to identify the misconceptions and areas to develop. Use this to inform your whole class feedback – use a visualiser if you have one.
- Try putting the onus on the pupil. Ask pupils to identify where they feel they need feedback; a question mark in the margin will do, highlighting a passage they are pleased with, unhappy with, or unsure about. There are many ways this can go.
- Try dot feedback. Take 3 colours (bingo dabbers work great!) and use them against student work. One colour for something they’ve done well, one for something that could be made better, and a third for something that needs correcting. Then provide specific and generalised resources to scaffold pupil responses to your feedback. A keyword sheet, sentence starters or a knowledge organiser could help.
Change the feedback diet of your pupils to reap the rewards. Prioritise feedback time in your lessons. Teach feedback response explicitly. Trial low input, high output tasks, and always remember the value and impact of instant, specific, verbal feedback!