June 30, 2021

EEF: Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning – Part 2

In this series of summer term blogs, Emma Adcock, Director of Training and Research, summarises the central messages that run throughout the latest guidance from the EEF ‘Teacher feedback to improve learning’.

The latest guidance from the EEF ‘Teacher feedback to improve learning’ states that teachers should:

  1. Lay the foundations for effective feedback, with high-quality teaching that includes careful formative assessment
  2. Deliver appropriately timely feedback, that focuses on moving learning forward
  3. Plan how pupils will receive the feedback using strategies to ensure that pupils will act on the feedback offered.

If schools are to deliver these guiding principles effectively, they require a carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented feedback policy. In the first blog of the series, I explored principles 1 and 2:

  1. Lay the foundations for effective feedback
  2. Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving learning forward.

In this second blog, I will be focusing on the guiding principles of principles 3 and 4:

  • Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback
  • Carefully consider how to use purposeful, and time-efficient, written feedback.

Principle 3 – Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback

In addition to delivering high-quality teaching (including formative assessment strategies), carefully judging the appropriate timing, crafting the most appropriate and impactful content, teachers also need to pay close attention to how pupils receive feedback and what they do with it after.

A variety of factors may influence whether pupils seek and welcome feedback. Research tells us that a ‘one size fits all’ may not be so impactful.

The following factors may influence a pupil’s use of feedback include:

  • Pupil motivation
  • Self confidence
  • Trust in the teacher
  • Working memory

Let us explore the impact of working memory. The working memory is where information that is being actively processed is held but its capacity is limited. Teachers may need to consider how the feedback they provide interacts with a pupil’s working memory, being careful not to overload it.

As Dylan Wiliam has explained, effective feedback needs to be used as a windscreen, rather than a rear-view mirror. In other words, it should be a ‘recipe for future action’. It is crucial that pupils are given the time and opportunity to use the feedback given so that it moves learning forward. It needs to impact the future work that a pupil will undertake.

However, research shows that 59% of primary and 44% of secondary teachers who were surveyed in the EEF review, stated that a lack of time prevented pupils from effectively using feedback. Being mindful of these time restraints, teachers should consider: Are there short, powerful activities, that could be deployed to enable pupils to act on feedback?

Here are some examples:

Detective activities – dots in the margin where there may be errors and ask pupils to find and correct them.
Class discussion of feedback – provide opportunities for the class to collectively discuss the feedback.
Three questions – the teacher poses three focused questions at the end of a written piece of work. The pupils then respond to these.
Correcting errors and editing work – the teacher may ask pupils to make specific corrections. Appropriate modelling may support this approach.

Principle 4: Carefully consider how to use purposeful and time-efficient, written feedback

What might effective and time-efficient written feedback look like in the classroom?

The following strategies could prove useful:

Live Marking

Where marking is given during rather than after the lesson. It may be undertaken with individual pupils, or it may be modelled to the whole class collectively using a visualiser. This approach may also allow for additional verbal interaction with pupils, which may support the understanding of feedback.

Coded marking

84% of primary teachers and 58% of secondary teachers surveyed in the EEF review stated that their school feedback polices recommend the use of written marking codes.

Thinking like the teacher

Before the teacher spends time on written feedback, pupils could spend time pre-empting teacher comments and editing and revising their work (with scaffolds). This is likely to lead to meaningful conversations between peers about learning.

Reflection on the first four recommendations

Q: To what extent do these principles reflect your current practice?
Q: What are the challenges that you may face in implementing these principles? How might you overcome these?

Emma Adcock
Director of Training and Research

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