Research School Network: Effective Teacher Feedback: Putting the Evidence to Work Juliet Stafford reflects on how to put the recommendations in the Effective Teacher Feedback Guidance Report into action.


Effective Teacher Feedback: Putting the Evidence to Work

Juliet Stafford reflects on how to put the recommendations in the Effective Teacher Feedback Guidance Report into action.

by Staffordshire Research School
on the

As we approach the mid-point of the academic year, I would like to reflect on the latest guidance from the EEF surrounding effective teacher feedback and share with you some principles, reflections and examples of the approach to feedback in our school. The EEF report is full of good practice and advice so, in order to do it justice, I would like to start with Recommendations 1 and 2. I will explore the other recommendations in future blogs. 

The first recommendation of the report stresses the importance of laying the foundations for effective feedback. It suggests that, before any feedback is provided, pupils should be provided with high quality instruction including the use of formative assessment. This will allow pupils to perform as well as they possibly can in the first instance. This makes perfect sense and ultimately this should mean that we reduce the amount of work that our feedback has to do. How many times in the past have pupils been given a task that they are not fully prepared for, not been able to complete it to the best of their ability only for teachers to spend ages on providing advice on how to improve it? Far better that we provide the high-quality instruction first and use shared success criteria and modelling to ensure the best outcomes for pupils before we even consider giving our feedback on how to improve.

So what does high quality instruction look like? Whilst the report recognises that this will inevitably look different across subjects and phases, it does identify common principles. I found it really helpful to reflect on these as part of our curriculum implementation and have included some examples of our practice below.

Teacher 4784916 1920

In our school, our long-term plans and schemes of learning are written to ensure that we are constantly building on prior learning, helping pupils to make the links between key concepts. Not only do we regularly recap in lessons but we use also retention and retrieval practice alongside formal interleaving to ensure that we are firmly embedding key knowledge and skills into long term memory. Intervention in the form of revision and providing supportive materials, such as knowledge organisers, is also key to preparing pupils to perform well in assessments. Lessons are collaboratively planned to ensure that learning is appropriately chunked and cognitive overload is avoided. Whole staff CPD and sharing good practice sessions have ensured that all staff are clear of such strategies and it is embedded in our practice through our monitoring and quality assurance. We also have in place a fully resourced, carefully planned and well sequenced curriculum with common long-term plans and schemes of learning to ensure progression and provide the building blocks for pupil learning. Our content, assessment and pedagogy are based on high quality evidence and we continually use the latest research to further develop our practice.

So, what else does high quality instruction include? It is also about teachers being aware of common misconceptions and putting strategies in place to counter them. As part of our joint schemes of learning and collaborative planning, common misconceptions are identified for each unit of work, in advance of teaching, including providing guidance for less experienced colleagues on how best to avoid them. This also forms part of our subject knowledge enhancement sessions. However, as well as pre-empting misconceptions, we also deal with them as they occur in lessons through questioning and making effective use of AFL. Teachers are then able to respond accordingly to address them. In this way, we can hopefully eliminate some of the misunderstandings in pupil work before they occur which will allow us to focus more specifically on what the pupil really needs to do to improve (with the resulting positive impact on our workload).

In this way, we can hopefully eliminate some of the misunderstandings in pupil work before they occur which will allow us to focus more specifically on what the pupil really needs to do to improve

For us, assessment for learning is varied and we employ a wide range of strategies in the classroom including mini whiteboards, low-stakes quizzes, diagnostic use of learning platforms such as SENECA, planner cards, whole class responses, assessed homework and exit tickets. Questioning is also key. I knew that questioning in our school was a strength and reading this report not only confirmed that also but reminded me of some areas to refresh and improve our practice. The first of these was to remind staff of the importance of wait time and thinking time to improve the quality of pupil response. Providing wait time for our pupils will not only improve the quality of their answer but help to boost their confidence too. As teachers, we cannot possibly plan questions for every lesson but thinking carefully about our questioning techniques and planning tasks with the end goal in mind is a really powerful way to strengthen the tools that we use for assessment and feedback.

Principles feedback

At Etone College, we value our collegiate approach and we actively create time for staff to work collaboratively resulting in well planned lessons linked to assessment opportunities. Good use is made of modelling and teacher explanation and we have invested heavily in visualizers to support this process.

The EEF guidance report
is underpinned by 5 key principles of formative assessment but has a strong focus on providing feedback that moves learning forward. This means that feedback must allow pupils to make progress and this has always underpinned our assessment and feedback policy. In practice, this means telling our pupils where their successes are, identifying targets and establishing their next steps. Individual feedback and specific tasks are provided to pupils to allow them to close the learning gap. We call these step-up tasks, answered, as in many schools, in green pen during carefully planned fix it time activities or lessons (aka DIRT time). Providing the time for pupils to respond to our feedback is imperative to close their gaps with the added bonus of making our marking time worthwhile. As a school, we also use model answers, scaffolded approaches, exemplar pupil work and examiner commentaries to ensure that we model the required standard to pupils as well as equipping them with the skills to reflect on and respond to feedback.

Formative assessment
Formative Assessment

The second recommendation of the report highlights how we can deliver appropriately timed feedback that again focuses on moving learning forwards. The timing of feedback is something that has changed dramatically in many schools in recent years. When we reviewed our policy a few years back now, we took away the notion of a fixed time interval for the frequency of marking and feedback (i.e. every two weeks). Instead, we gave ownership of when to provide feedback to our Directors of Learning who, along with their team, designed their own faculty assessment calendars. Not only did this allow them to manage pinch points for staff but enabled them to link assessment clearly to where it was most appropriate in curriculum terms. Inevitably, there are some common times when we assess, such as mock examinations, and we have shared data collection points and other common approaches, but the exact timing of written feedback is down to the subject team.

One of my main takeaways from this section of the report will be the timing of feedback and how this varies. For example, it discusses a pupil for whom immediate feedback is important as it prevents a misconception forming. On the other hand, it may be beneficial to delay feedback to force a pupil to fully engage with a task before they are given an answer. This could lead to them having to work harder and grapple more with this task and therefore increase challenge, embedding concepts more effectively into their long-term memory. Whilst we naturally do this as teachers, reflecting on the timing of feedback in this way was really helpful. The nature of feedback will vary according to the task, the pupil and the class and the use of teacher skill here to manage effective feedback is therefore invaluable.

Making connections no 2 working memory dual coding 190920 144554

There is always much debate about grades, praise and effort comments and the report considers these in the final section of Recommendation 2. We do provide grades for pupils but we ensure that the piece of work is substantial enough to meaningfully award the grade. In addition, we do provide praise comments and rewards in order to acknowledge the work that each pupil has done and to motivate them to continue to work hard and maintain high standards. This is a fundamental part of our positive approach to behaviour for learning. Being a parent as well as teacher, I have always firmly believed in providing this kind of positive reinforcement when it comes to pupil work so that each pupil can see how the teacher values the time and effort put in. However, the amount of work that the teacher also has to put in has to be considered too and we always have to remain mindful of teacher workload. Stamps, stickers, House Points and rewards can all go a long way to help. In addition, linking praise comments to tasks, subject or self-regulation, as recommended in the report, can only make them more meaningful – so to me, it’s a win-win!

I have worked in secondary schools for more than 30 years now and have seen many changes to feedback approaches. This has been in my role as a classroom teacher, a curriculum lead and also a senior leader. I have come to appreciate that the job of managing effective school assessment and feedback is not easy. Not only must you consider the pupils and how we can provide them with the most effective feedback to make progress but we have to bear in mind the opportunity cost” for staff too. This latest guidance gives lots of advice about high quality feedback but keeps teacher workload at its heart – a welcome departure from previous overly-burdensome assessment practices that had developed in some schools.

Juliet Stafford is a Senior Leader at Etone College, Nuneaton and ELE for the Staffordshire Research School

More from the Staffordshire Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more