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Research School Network: Effective assessment and feedback strategies using educational technology Shuna Neave of George Spencer Academy explains how her school has approached using technology to deliver feedback effectively.

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Effective assessment and feedback strategies using educational technology

Shuna Neave of George Spencer Academy explains how her school has approached using technology to deliver feedback effectively.

Staff at George Spencer Academy in Nottinghamshire made formative assessment and feedback a focus of remote staff CPD during the January 2021 lockdown. We knew that these strategies, used together effectively, could significantly improve student outcomes.

Since reading the EEF’s guidance on remote learning, and the reassuring advice that, pedagogy trumps the medium’, we were keen to ensure the approaches we pursued were research-informed. Helpful key messages about feedback – such as Dylan Wiliam’s engineer activities that elicit evidence of learning,’ and, provide feedback that moves the learner forwards’ – proved useful for our thinking.

With a variety of interesting online tools at our fingertips, we were keen to explore whether teachers could improve their use of assessment and feedback strategies to benefit students’ learning. To start with, staff with a strong knowledge of the evidence and familiarity with helpful online platforms made short training videos on how to make effective use of several assessment and feedback programmes. These were then shared on our staff CPD site.

Some of these programmes were well-designed quizzes, which served multiple functions: providing formative information through the use of diagnostic questions; giving students the opportunity to practice applying their new knowledge or working through steps in a newly-learned process; and allowing them to participate in regular retrieval practice. Carefully-designed Google forms made it possible for students to see the correct answers to questions posed and receive differentiated feedback.

Multiple-choice questions also gave teachers useful information about what content to cover into future lessons. For example, one question after a lesson on meiosis, students were asked, How many chromosomes are there in haploid cells from humans?’. The choice of answers was 4, 8, 23, 23 pairs, or 46 – the correct answer being 23. On the basis of the answer given, teachers knew the misconception underlying each of the wrong answers, and could adapt their teaching accordingly. For example, students who chose 4 or 8 had mistaken the simplified cell diagrams in the lesson for accurate human cells.

In terms of feedback, the form was set up so that students who answered incorrectly received the right answer and a different explanatory comment depending upon their answer. Individual or whole-class feedback was then used in the following lesson to explain further, and move students’ learning forward.

We were keen to mitigate the impact of partial school closures on staff workload. Ensuring that teachers were well trained in providing high-quality verbal and whole-class feedback electronically was key to achieving that.

Many staff learned to use Mote voice notes to give verbal feedback on students’ written work, and those that did found it to be far quicker than providing written feedback. For example, when teachers were marking 6‑mark questions in science they could paste the mark scheme below the student’s answer. They could then record a voice note explaining how many marks the answer could gain, and how the student could be more successful in their next attempt. We are able to give much more detailed information, in a much more efficient way.

Teachers also used Loom to provide whole class feedback. Rather than individual written comments, George Spencer teachers collated common errors and misconceptions in a class’ work, then delivered any necessary re-teaching in a video for use in subsequent lessons. This again was a much more time-efficient approach for reviewing pupils’ learning and moving their progress forward.

The EEF’s 2019 guidance report Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning’ informs us that technology itself is unlikely to improve young people’s learning, but that the pedagogy behind it can. It was exciting and motivating to be able to make use of digital technologies to successfully implement better assessment and feedback approaches during remote teaching. Our staff will continue to use many of these principles and tools in the future, both in-class and for homework.

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