Research School Network: We’re talking about feedback! Blog 2! Recommendation 2: Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving learning forward.


We’re talking about feedback! Blog 2!

Recommendation 2: Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving learning forward.

by Staffordshire Research School
on the

Part a) Developing each teacher’s ability to JUDGE feedback needs accurately.

In my first blog, I discussed how we should pay close attention to how we lay the foundations for effective feedback for both teachers and students. For teachers, I asserted that ensuring that staff understand the power of feedback and prioritise the clarity of success criteria were key. For students, I asserted that the key ingredients are 1) that they understand their part in the feedback partnership and 2) they are rigorously trained’ in effective habits of feedback from the outset.

I think it is worth emphasising again that the EEF toolkit suggests that feedback may have very high’ impact (equivalent to 8 months progress) for a very low cost: this means that developing high quality impactful feedback habits should be a priority in schools.

The evidence base for strong positive impact of feedback is secure (EEF) and indicates a potential 8 month gain.

6 recommendations
The six recommendations from the EEF in relation to feedback.

The second recommendation then is: Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving learning forward. The EEF guidance report covers a lot of ground here but one of the most important things is the latter part of this recommendation. As Dylan William states: The only thing that matters with feedback is what learners do with it.’ 

This is why recommendation 1 is so important in terms of making students a partner in the feedback cycle. The students have to understand the power of feedback, see its potential impact and in essence begin to crave’ it as they want to improve. Before we get to how the feedback moves learning forward (part b of this blog), we must though consider the former part of the recommendation: the TIMING of the feedback.

When considering the timing of feedback, the research is inconclusive.

Research investigating the relationship of feedback timing and performance reveals inconsistent findings’ (Valerie Shute 2008)

Studies show that feedback interventions which are given:

i) during learning

ii) immediately after learning and

iii) up to a week after learning

all have a similar impact size in terms of positive outcomes. It is worth noting that none of the studies referenced in the guidance report focus on the impact of feedback after a week has lapsed.

It is interesting to draw out from this then that school feedback policies which specify the frequency of feedback is likely to be arbitrary at best. (Recommendation six will focus on the construction of a purposeful and effective feedback policy in more detail).

Decisions around the timing of feedback is probably best left to classroom teachers.’ 

What is instead clear from the research is that decisions around the timing of feedback is probably best left to classroom teachers. As leaders in schools though, leaving important things to teacher judgement alone often requires a leap of faith. 

In my experience though, if people TRULY understand the benefits (Recommendation 1) and the impact their work can have on student progress and learning AND leaders invest appropriately in such an area of pedagogy, teachers WILL always do the right thing. We want teachers to embrace feedback as part and parcel of their pedagogical toolkit and NOT as a bolt on. We need to build a skill level and understanding that makes this possible.

So, the EEF recommends that when considering the timing of feedback, we know it is likely to be best delivered if we improve teachers’ ability to 1) understand the importance of feedback and 2) judge when and where it is likely to have the most impact. Therefore, the EEF recommends that we look at the four areas below:

Teacher feedback considerations

Ensuring that we have space in our annual CPD programme to discuss these areas is crucial. If we want feedback to be more impactful AND believe that we have to develop each teacher’s ability to judge more accurately the type and timing of feedback needed, then we must invest in this as part of our CPD package.

If we consider the TIMES’ or TIMING’ section here, CPD around this might get teachers discussing whether the feedback they give is likely to be more impactful:

i) immediately – as it will avoid misconceptions taking root, OR

ii) should we delay the feedback? This will potentially allow students to think deeply and work hard, fully engaging in the task at hand and forcing them to recall previous knowledge

Making quality decisions about feedback in lessons is not an easy feat and so teachers should practice different forms of feedback deliberately to improve their skill, automaticity and confidence when deciding on a feedback methodology and timing’.

Supporting the development of teacher judgement then should consider three areas:

The task
The pupil
The class

The Task

If we first consider the TASK at hand, we need to consider what the task is and whether, for example, it already has feedback built in. Three examples of this are below:

Feedback timing examples
Subject examples of when the type of focus for the feedback is dependent on the task.

In all of these instances, the tasks themselves have inbuilt mechanisms for immediate feedback to the student – the teacher is not needed to tell students whether something is right or wrong. Instead, the teacher’s energies should be focused on planning WHAT students should do when they receive this feedback. Should they seek advice from a peer? Watch a clip with step-by-step modelling? Ask for teacher input? Reread a guidance sheet? And so on.

The Pupil

When considering the PUPIL in developing the quality of teacher judgements around feedback, it is important for teachers to understand and recognise that yes, feedback will possibly vary in content by child, but it is also likely to require different timings too. Two examples are below:

Feedback judgement 2
Ensuring teachers understand the importance of their choices is crucial.

In the examples above, CPD with teachers pondering scenarios such as this will enable them to engage with the concept of timing and improve their overall teacher judgement in relation to feedback; it should give them confidence to practice different timings and feedback interventions. 

Leaders may then create an opportunity for the teachers to come together again as a group of professionals to consider the impact of their choices and reflect on their decisions. This sounds like a lengthy process and it is. But the fact remains that FEEDBACK seems to be one of our highest leverage activities so we should prioritise it in our practice.

FEEDBACK seems to be one of our highest leverage activities so we should prioritise it in our practice.’

The Class

The third factor which should be considered when developing the effectiveness of teacher judgement in the timing of feedback is the CLASS. 

For me, this means checking the general temperature’ of the class in terms of understanding and being open to receiving feedback myself as to how effective my explanations and modelling (etc.) have been thus far. 

This is where simple AfL techniques such as MWB or finger indicators are helpful. If several of your class are getting it wrong, YOU need the feedback in order to adapt what you’re doing and your reteaching / reexplaining (and so on) becomes the CLASS feedback.

In closing, schools do not necessarily need a feedback policy which specifies the time of feedback according to some arbitrary calendar designed to make sure we all do it! Instead, schools should focus on improving teachers’ ability to judge more effectively the timing of their feedback considering the three factors above.

This blog was written by Stacey Jordan, Operational Research Lead at Staffordshire Research School.

To find out more see the EEF’s guidance report of TEACHER FEEDBACK TO IMPROVE PUPIL LEARNING

Next time: Recommendation 2: Deliver appropriately timed feedback that focuses on moving learning forward.

Part b) Ensuring that feedback focuses on moving learning forward.

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