Movement J2Oprkacwkq
21 Sep 2018

Visible Learning: Feedback

What is feedback?

Visible Learning: Feedback

I’m sure many of us are familiar with John Hattie’s work and books, including Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers. His latest book, Visible Learning: Feedback, written with formative assessment expert Shirley Clarke, focuses on feedback, and combines research, theory and practice. The book is divided into the following chapters:

1. What is feedback?

2. A feedback culture

3. Teaching and learning frameworks

4. The power of in-lesson verbal feedback

5. Post-lesson feedback

The importance of creating a classroom climate which is conducive to learning and giving and receiving feedback is something that came up frequently during our three-day feedback training programme last year, so I was particularly interested in this chapter of the book. In creating a culture of trust, Hattie and Donoghue (2016) suggest we need to understand:

The skill: we need to know what students are bringing to the classroom and build on this. We need to teach students the skills to enable them to own their own learning.

The will: the various learning dispositions the student holds.

The thrill: we need to support students to be motivated by actively involving them in their learning and helping them to self-assess.

For me, this encapsulates something that is quite fundamental – the need to know your students and to use this knowledge effectively to best support them.

Another key message in this chapter is to normalise and celebrate error. Hattie (2012) suggests:

“Errors invite opportunity. They should not be seen as embarrassments, signs of failure or something to be avoided. They are exciting because they indicate a tension between what we know and what we could know: they are signs of opportunities to learn and they are to be embraced.”

Hattie and Clarke refer to Piaget, who suggests that mistakes lead to disequilibrium – an upset between what we know and what we do not know – and that this is a critical moment for learning, which teachers need to seize!

A study by Steuer, Rosentritt-Brunn and Dresel (2013) looked at ‘mistakes friendly’ classrooms and ‘mistakes unfriendly’ classrooms and found that when students perceive their classroom to be mistakes friendly they increase their efforts in their learning.

Some strategies suggested in the chapter to help create a feedback culture and ’mistakes friendly’ classroom include:

  • Highlighting errors in a positive way, as an opportunity to relearn
  • Encouraging students to discuss misconceptions and errors and to self-correct
  • Asking students to identify mistakes in work completed by students in previous years or classes.
  • Asking students to circle where they think they might have gone wrong in a piece of work
  • The teacher drawing a heart around mistakes when marking or as they move around a classroom during a lesson
  • Mixing up talk partners to increase opportunities for all students to seek and receive feedback from their peers.

Finally, a study by Cohen and Garcia (2014) referred to in this chapter reminded me of a lovely card I received from a former student last week in which she thanked me for my kind words and faith in her and the positive impact she felt this had on her time in the Sixth Form. In this study, hundreds of English students wrote essays and received diagnostic comments from their teachers. Half the students also received the following sentence: ‘I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you’. The students who received this message performed significantly better a year later, despite the teachers not knowing who had received the sentence. This piece of research and the thank you card together clearly illustrated to me the power of our words, and Hattie and Clarke refer to the words given by teachers as ‘having the potential to be remembered, either positively or negatively, for a lifetime’. This is something that on a day to day basis I had forgotten. At the start of a new school year, I found this is a powerful message to reflect on and inform my interactions with students.

If you are interested in the power of feedback and developing a positive feedback culture, we are running our popular three-day training course, Effective Feedback to Maximise Progress, again this year.

Click here for more details about this course and to book: