Research School Network: Feedback: Make things Routine Mark Miller explores the ways to manage responses to feedback by keeping it routine and consistent
Feedback: Make things Routine
Mark Miller explores the ways to manage responses to feedback by keeping it routine and consistent
by Bradford Research School
Recommendation three of the recently released EEF Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupil Learning guidance reports tells us to ‘Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback’. Feedback is simply not going to make the difference we intend if we do not create the conditions for it to be received well and acted upon. Factors that may influence a pupil’s use of feedback, according to the guidance report include:
- Pupil motivation and desire for feedback;
- Self-confidence and self-concept;
- Trust in the teacher; and
- Working memory.
One way to plan for this is to carefully consider your classroom culture and how you can build a consistent approach so that these elements are less likely to become barriers.
Routine approaches are quite useful, because every time a new approach is introduced there is a cost, and you can spend much longer explaining how things work than focusing on the feedback. Below is an example of a whole class feedback approach I use. This one is for an English Literature essay on A Christmas Carol.
Think of the first moment when you introduce something like this. Here are all the things that might need explaining to pupils:
- Why they are not getting individual comments
- That their name will appear next to a task that they need to complete
- Where they stick it in books (trust me, this usually needs about half an hour of explaining!)
- That I will address things through teaching, small group intervention and individual instruction
- That the proforma will look slightly different each time depending on the nature of task and feedback.
- (And many other questions that you didn’t expect)
And there are a number of emotional responses that we have to manage:
- They may be embarrassed if their name appears next to an ‘easy’ target
- There may feel singled out for small group or individual intervention
- They may think I am cheating by giving 10 pupils the same target for improvement
All of these take longer the first time, so it is worth explicitly instructing how to navigate these, being really clear about the rationale, practising how it works in practice.
And all this effort in understanding how the approach works means initially the pupils are not focusing 100% on making improvements. But the next time, and the time after that, the strategy is routine. You don’t get all the questions, you don’t have the same emotional responses, working memory demands are decreased and the focus is on how the feedback will help pupils get better.
Routines to facilitate feedback
I will reach now for one of my most-used quotations from Peps Mcrea:
Routines strip out redundant decision costs, reduce the amount of novel information that we have to process, and make the most of our ability to think less about the things we repeatedly do.
Put simply, if we want pupils to direct attention to feedback that will help them to improve, we need to reduce some of the demands that may draw their attention away. Classroom routines that are used consistently can help to do this.
My most positive experience of this has been when teaching at Dixons Kings, where routines for the use of mini-whiteboards were carefully designed and implemented across the whole school. (You can read more about why I see whiteboards as an essential classroom tool here.) As well as the benefits of using something like this to provide feedback to the teacher about pupil knowledge and understanding, the teacher can use it to improve pupil learning and display pupil work. But if the sharing and discussion of pupil work is not routine, we may also see those barriers outlined in the guidance. Therefore, routine approaches and protocols for sharing student work are beneficial.
Show Call is a technique from Teach Like a Champion which is all about ‘publicly showcasing and revising student writing’. The teacher shares student work and uses it as a way to improve performance, either by modelling excellence, or by discussing ways to improve. Lemov suggests a few ways pupils can benefit from immediate feedback:
- ‘Check or change’- compare to their own work.
- ‘Offline rewrite’ – where pupils are given more time to apply feedback to their own writing.
- ‘Live edit’ – where pupils correct their own errors live.
You can use mini whiteboards for this, but also project pupils’ work using visualisers. In any case, the benefits come from doing this regularly. The more often it happens, the less it is seen as a punishment or a distraction. It can help raise the profile and value of feedback. Naveen Rizvi has wriiten a great blog on Show Call here. This is just one example of a carefully considered routine – but there are many others.
There is a great video on Dixons OpenSource about ‘Hunting not Fishing’, making sure that you are intentional in the things you are looking for, which might then be displayed using Show Call.
For any new classroom routines there will be an initial cost that may make it feel less likely to help. As pupils learn a new routine perhaps they aren’t thinking deeply about the content. The first time you showcase someone’s work they will not have the many other examples to remind them that this is a neutral process. And teachers will find that routines need tweaking, and may feel uncomfortable to them at first too.
But, if you want to create better conditions for how feedback is received, consider what you can make routine.
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