Like many, I have been eagerly awaiting the EEF’s publication on ‘Teacher Feedback to Improve Learning’, and this document is everything I hoped it would be. By drawing together the relevant research, the report provides teachers with an easily accessible guide to harnessing the power of feedback to improve classroom learning.
As teachers we all understand the importance and the impact that meaningful feedback can have in supporting pupil progress, consolidating learning, and closing the gap between where a pupil is and where the teacher wants them to be.
In a nutshell, this guidance report aims to enable teachers to focus on what really matters: the principles of good feedback rather than the method of delivery.
In this series of summer term blogs, I will be summarising the central messages that run throughout the guidance. They state that teachers should:
If schools are to deliver these guiding principles effectively, they require a carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented feedback policy.
Teachers need to provide high quality instruction which includes the use of two formative assessment strategies which set learning intentions and assess learning gaps which feedback will address.
Let us define ‘high-quality instruction’. High quality instruction includes the following:
First, we need to have a clear idea of what we intend our pupils to learn. We must also ensure that the task will enable pupils to achieve the learning objective. (Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy offer several suggestions in ‘Embedding Formative Assessment).
Effective questioning enables the teacher to assess pupil understanding and determine what feedback needs to be provided.
Teachers need to assess the whole class’ understanding of a topic, which may then inform the feedback offered. For quick checks, consider the use of mini whiteboards or thumbs up or down. ‘Hinge point’ questions also offer valuable evidence to the teacher. At the end of a lesson, pupil exit tickets may be useful to drive subsequent learning.
Whatever task is being undertaken, the teacher should ask themselves, ‘Will the task reveal what the pupil is thinking, and can I use this to give feedback?’
The research presented in the EEF guidance is inconclusive regarding the optimum time for when feedback should be provided. It may therefore be inappropriate for feedback policies to state exactly when feedback should be given. 69% of primary teachers surveyed stated that their school feedback policies explicitly stated the frequency of written feedback.
To guide this judgement, teachers should consider three things:
Compared to the timing of feedback, the evidence of what to focus feedback on may offer a clearer message. High-quality feedback that focuses on:
The task (its outcome and advice on how to improve)
The teacher asks, can you use the balance scales again and see which item is the heaviest?
The teacher says many of you are identifying the bulbs and wires in this circuit. Can you also label the switches and the cells?
The subject (the underlying processes within that subject)
A child is struggling with letter formation. The teacher says, “remember we start a ‘d’ by doing a letter ‘c’ shape. Let’s try that again.”
In history, pupils are debating whether Boudicca was a hero. The teacher notes that not enough historical terminology is being used. The teacher says, “I want you to use a specialist term we’ve learned, such as ‘rebellion’”.
Self-regulation (how pupils plan, monitor and evaluate their work)
The teacher says, “we need to be finishing our portraits in the next fifteen minutes, do you think you will be able to finish?”
The teacher says, “Look at our display of strategies that we’ve used to solve problems we’ve tackled in the past. I think one of those could help you solve this problem.”
Regardless of whether a teacher chooses to give grades, offer praise, or comment on effort, the feedback they give on learning is more likely to be effective at improving pupil attainment if it includes a focus on the task, subject, and/or self-regulation strategies. It is less likely to be effective it focuses on a learner’s personal characteristics or provides a general or vague comment.
In the second blog, I will be focusing on the guiding principles of principles 3 and 4:
Director of Training and Research
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