Research School Network: A closer look at Feedback: Reflections from an MFL case study Sadie Thompson, HISP RS’s Deputy Director, reflects on the ​‘Teacher Feedback To Improve Pupil Learning’ guidance report


A closer look at Feedback: Reflections from an MFL case study

Sadie Thompson, HISP RS’s Deputy Director, reflects on the ​‘Teacher Feedback To Improve Pupil Learning’ guidance report

A closer look at Feedback:…

The EEF have recently published a Teacher Feedback To Improve Pupil Learning’ guidance report which identifies 6 principles to support teachers and school leaders to reflect on the principles, methods and implementation of feedback.

The first three recommendations focusing on the principles of assessment are:

  • Lay the foundations for effective feedback
  • Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving forward
  • Plan for how pupils will receive and use feedback

The next two focusing on methods of assessment are:

  • Carefully consider how to use purposeful, and time-efficient, written feedback
  • Carefully consider how to use purposeful verbal feedback

The final recommendation focusing on implementation is:

  • Design a school feedback policy that prioritises and exemplifies the principles of effective feedback

Having now read this report, it got me thinking about assessment practices at HISP Research School at Thornden, on a whole school, departmental and classroom level. Here I share some of my thoughts and reflections.

Recent data from Teacher Tapp, the app that canvasses teachers daily for their opinions on a wide range of issues by asking just three questions, showed that despite us all moaning about marking, if no one was monitoring it, just 12% of respondents would give it up altogether. Although that number appears to grow slightly year on year, in 2020 a combined total of 63% of those surveyed said that they’d continue to mark about half as much as they do now or more. So it appears we see value in marking, but the amount and frequency is still somewhat up for debate.

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When it comes to feedback, much more than just marking’ books, teachers can often get bogged down in what they should’ be doing, as opposed to what is most effective in terms of improving the work of students. It is important to consider that across different phases, different subject areas and even among different teachers, effective feedback for learning will present in a variety of ways, but that is not to say that any one method is the right’ way to guide our students to become better learners, but that several factors will likely be considered when choosing the most appropriate feedback method, combining both expertise and sound research-based evidence.

As a school we really started to reflect deeply on our approaches to marking and indeed feedback in 2017/18 after reading the SSAT refocusing assessment document. We took the five questions here from the SSAT Refocusing Assessment Brochure and made these the focus of an audit for each department area. Teams took time at the beginning of the academic year to look at what feedback looks like in their department area and what types of feedback are used on a daily, weekly or perhaps termly basis. This is then reviewed each academic year and tweaked as a result of reflections on what this has actually looked like in practice year on year and how it can be remodelled for the next year.

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The document is specific; in line with the questions posed in the SSAT document, it asks for the How, What, Why in line with our approach to implementation at Thornden, but also additional details such as who will be responsible for monitoring the assessment and when it will take place. It is this pinning down of specifics which make the process achievable – rather than a more superficial document just to justify that assessment is happening at all. An example of the working document for MFL can be found here:

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You’ll see that not all feedback listed is traditional book marking. Assessment happens hundreds of times in a lesson and although that might not be formally documented here, that is not to discredit it. Instantaneous feedback like that of correcting pronunciation or minor spelling and grammar errors (a missing accent for example with an explanation) could arguably be the most effective feedback of all in our subject area, as it instantly improves student outcomes before an error has been fossilised. No evidence of it is not to say it didn’t once take place and was corrected by an efficient teacher!

In practice then, although the assessment policy stands for each department, what does this look like for a large team, with varying levels of experience? The beauty of a policy like ours is that it enables each staff member in our team to direct their feedback with their classes in the way that they see works best. Marking happens, probably still more frequently than we’d either like it to or than is perhaps necessary, but that could also be due to the nature of language learning – you make an awful lot of mistakes before you reach anywhere near fluent and the huge variation in exam skills being assessed at GCSE level demands that pupils are put through their paces frequently in order to develop the correct exam skills for each particular paper and question type. In recent years and perhaps exacerbated by the pandemic, I have moved away from traditional book marking on a regularly 3 weekly basis and now use my visualizer daily, demonstrate live feedback and make use of technology tools such as OneNote Class Notebook and voice memos to give feedback to my students. For my colleagues, some still prefer their handwritten class lists at the back of their teacher planner and a more traditional gradebook. But the consistency in our approach to giving timely and specific as a team means that all our pupils benefit, no matter their teacher or their methods. Do I worry that someone will pick up my books and argue that they haven’t been marked enough? Yes, I do, but I have to trust my professional judgement too and know that the efforts I am putting into high quality teaching and learning will more than outweigh some red underlining in exercise books that my students will not necessarily have the tools or understanding of language to engage with and therefore improve from. The recent EEF Guidance Report on Feedback states exactly that too – Recommendation 1 is to Lay the foundations for effective feedback’ and that high quality instruction that sets learning intentions and assesses learning gaps will reduce the work that any feedback will need to do.

If you would like to find out more about the EEF Feedback guidance report then join us for a free information webinar at 4pm on Thursday 4th November 2021

Registration link:

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