22 May 2018

Time to Reflect

Time to Reflect

During the Spring Term we were delighted to run a three-day course, Effective Feedback to Maximise Progress, which focused on providing delegates with the latest research evidence into effective feedback approaches and how to implement these in practice. Each of these days gave me significant time for reflection and as a result I refined my approach to feedback further. None of the changes I have made are revolutionary, but they have enabled me to further ensure that that the feedback I provide enables progress and that my time is better spent.

1. Day One of the course encouraged me to formalise my use of checklists before providing students with feedback. I blogged about this previously here and I do find that it does make a significant difference to the quality of work that I then feedback on.

2. Providing effective feedback to students is not just about me providing written feedback. Of course, I was aware of this before this course, but hadn’t seriously considered the extent to which I use other types of feedback in my classroom and how I prioritise written teacher feedback and self-assessment over other approaches. Using the diagram below from A Marked Improvement, I mentally audited my use of other types of feedback, and realised that some simple changes could be made.

Firstly, when completing a writing task during the lesson I try to provide all students with verbal feedback on how to improve/develop their work while they are doing it as I move swiftly around the room. This has enabled them to make immediate changes and the quality of work I then provide feedback on improves. I am now far more careful and measured in the verbal feedback I give to ensure it has impact. Secondly, rather than writing the same thing on a number of pieces of work, I provide whole class feedback on this issue or re-teach something if this required. Thirdly, I have challenged myself to try again with peer feedback. In almost 20 years of teaching, I have never used peer assessment in what I felt to be a truly successful way. However, successful use of self-assessment in my classroom has resulted from significant modelling, scaffolding and practice, so perhaps peer assessment could be more successful with a greater time investment from me?

3. It reaffirmed by commitment to using a significant amount of my classroom time for students to respond to my feedback. If I have spent the time providing the feedback and giving them tasks to complete on the basis of this feedback, it is time well invested to ensure that this is responded to. It also means that I have been able to develop a classroom climate where this is the norm and where students are happy to ask me for further clarification and support as they work through their feedback tasks.

4. Marking needs to be manageable, meaningful and motivating. This statement has made me think more coherently about the tasks I set students to ensure that they are worthwhile and, as a result, that the feedback I give them is worthwhile too. In particular, I have shifted from providing feedback on full essays to providing feedback on shorter pieces of work too, including paragraphs. This has made my workload more manageable but hasn’t negatively impacted on the feedback students receive.

5. Grades! Discussion with students about this topic always results in them saying that, to them, grades are the most important part of the feedback they receive from me and, of course, students do need an awareness of their current performance. However, I know it has a detrimental impact on their response to the written comments I give them and the research evidence supports me. I have long used a mixed economy of grading some pieces of work and not others and, if anything, my reflections on this have led me to grade even less. I have explained the rationale behind this to my classes and they rarely ask for a grade now if it hasn’t been given to them. They are far more focused on what my feedback means to them and how to use it to improve and refine their own work. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t moan about it when I am out of earshot though!