Feedback that makes an impact

By Andrea Mapplebeck posted 09-12-2022 09:18


Research tells us that feedback has the potential to really improve the progress students make in their learning. Feedback can also support teachers to learn along with their students, by providing evidence of how well the curriculum, and the way it is taught, is facilitating the students’ learning. As such, feedback is at the heart of learning and a valued part of the educational experience.

However, all feedback is not made equal.

Feedback, as we have highlighted during the online Feedback for Learning course, is conceptually difficult and also complex to facilitate if it is going to have an impact for the student on their learning.

To help support educators to facilitate higher quality feedback for the student, we have shared how it needs to be specific and accurate for them. We have also shared three simple questions, drawn from feedback research, which can be used to help generate such feedback. These questions can be used with students either during the learning in the lesson, or when reviewing their work after it.

The feedback questions to discuss with the students are:

  1. Where am I going? What are the goals for the learning?

  2. How am I doing? What progress is being made towards these goals?

  3. Where do I go next? What activities need to be taken to make better progress?

In addition to being specific and accurate, an idea we highlighted, that can increase the potential of the feedback for the student further, was what the focus of the feedback was hoping to improve.

To help students to make more progress, we shared that the focus of the feedback needs to be linked to improving the learner and their learning, rather than just discussing the way they completed or achieved the task they had undertaken.

By considering these questions, in conjunction with the learning goals, teachers can generate feedback that is both specific, and accurate, and most importantly, is linked to improving the learner as they progress on their learning journey.

This idea was something that resonated with the learners on the online course and helped clarify for them ways they could develop their feedback practices.

You will be pleased to know our Feedback for Learning online course has ideas of how teachers are using specific, accurate and learning focused feedback. In addition, the course has a large range of practical approaches that will help you develop your feedback practices.

If you think that this simple way of improving your feedback would support you and your students, why don’t you think about signing up to learn of others? We would love to see you there.

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11-12-2022 20:27

John Perry makes an excellent point.

10-12-2022 20:46

Anyone who has prepared for an examination focuses on how they will be assessed.  Research by Ramsden (1992) has shown that assessment is what 'learners' are really interested in; as Ramsden puts it ...'the assessment is the curriculum as far as the 'learners' are concerned.  They will lean what they think they will be assessed on, not what is in the curriculum or even what has been covered in class'.

So if this is the 'learners' focus then we as teachers must explain clearly how we will assess their work and provide clear criteria for different levels of performance.  Now we know that our external examination system is 'norm' referenced, so it is impossible to provide for our pupils a definitive level of performance necessary for them to achieve a 'pass'.  But teachers are not fools, they analyses past papers and examiners reports ,or may even become markers for external examinations, so that they get a 'feel' for what is needed, and this is often successful.  It is what I did early in my teaching career.

However, in our classrooms we can look to identify a desired level of performance that we think is most likely to meet with success in external examinations, and then establish a set of progressive criteria, constructed in pupil friendly language, that will lead our pupils through a set of stages that increase the quality of their responses towards this expectation.   For me this type of system already exists - the SOLO taxonomy.  The five levels  of the taxonomy provide a clear progression towards deeper understanding, and allow not for 'feedback 'discussions but for 'feed forward' advice that will support an individual to progress towards increasingly sophisticated levels of response to open ended questions.

Hattie and the EEF both support the developmental importance of feedback, but without a clear expression, to our pupils, of the criteria we are using to assess their work it may just as well be 'try harder'!