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Research School Network: Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupils’ Learning Andy Burton, ELE and Assistant Maths Hub Lead explores how a local school has used evidence to guide a new approach to feedback.

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Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupils’ Learning

Andy Burton, ELE and Assistant Maths Hub Lead explores how a local school has used evidence to guide a new approach to feedback.

by St. Matthew's Research School
on the

Research has pointed the way towards the holy grail of providing good quality timely feedback in a consistent whole school approach whilst reducing the workload associated with marking.”

The Predicament


All teachers understand the importance of providing meaningful feedback. Done well, it supports pupil progress, building learning and addressing misconceptions; crucially, it is forward facing. We want the students to perform better at some point in the future in tasks that they have not yet been set. Feedback also needs to be presented in a timely fashion. I often compare this to when I learned to ski on a school trip to the Alps several years ago. The instructor gave verbal feedback in small bite-sized chunks on the slopes as I was learning. A written summative report in different colours to read on the long coach journey home would not have been effective. A pivotal factor, that is often overlooked, is what students do with this feedback once it has been provided, whether it is verbal or written.

Clearly if our students are putting in a huge amount of effort to complete the tasks we ask of them, often going beyond our expectations, then we need to recognise the work that they have done. This needs to be balanced with teacher workload and wellbeing: it’s not possible read every word or check every calculation. All too often, teachers spend a huge amount of time writing comments in students’ books, but that time and energy is not used effectively which leads to frustration by all concerned. The students don’t always know how to improve their work and the teachers feel that their efforts the previous evening were wasted.

This blog will look at how Q3 Langley have adapted the way in which feedback is provided to maximise the impact within their academy and how this is aligned to the EEF Guidance report Teacher Feedback to Improve Pupils Learning” first published in June 2021.

Feedback

Principles


Senior leaders regularly communicated the benefits of effective feedback to their students providing a clear rationale of the need and importance of appropriately timed feedback. A consistent approach for students leads to a greater buy in from the students. They understand expectations of how to respond and the cognitive load of multiple feedback systems across different subject disciplines is reduced. The school settled on an expectation of feedback being provided for every 200 minutes of curriculum time, which for most subjects is once per week. Students are provided with success criteria for the task that they are going be assessed against to help lay the foundations for effective feedback.

Staff model What A Good One Looks Like” (WAGOLL) as part of the feedback process, sometimes performed live” whilst others were pre-prepared, to show learners what they need to be striving to achieve as well as increasing the consistency of approach between departments. Crucially, the teacher sets an appropriate amount of time aside in the following lesson to address the most common misconceptions, spelling errors and SPAG issues. Students then complete a gap synthesis task to close the feedback loop by providing an opportunity to move their learning forwards. This helped them in addressing the first three recommendations of the guidance report surrounding feedback.

Methods


In keeping with the EEF guidance report Putting Evidence to work: A schools guide to implementation” senior leaders were reflective about the current feedback provision and were constantly looking to develop this further. The timing coincided with the Covid pandemic and concerns about transmission of the virus in addition to their desire to improve staff wellbeing and potentially reduce workload.

The concept of a marking log was then devised. Written feedback in student books often results in the same spellings being corrected or the same misconceptions being addressed multiple times. Instead of writing comments within student books, a simple A4 pro-forma was designed to capture the main elements that the school wanted to address. The marking log has a section for staff to record the following elements:-

Individual student praise (This is an essential part of the school culture)

Misconceptions

Book presentation

SPAG

Spellings

Notes

Whilst the proforma is consistent in its design there are some minor alterations for different subjects; for example, in maths to address whether working out is shown or in art to recognise practical work in lessons.

This has reduced workload considerably. Staff are spending less time with written feedback; they use a visualiser in the following lesson to highlight the most common issues that need to be addressed within the time set aside for reflection and improvement. Staff feel happy that they are using their time effectively and their students are moving their learning forwards. Quality time is set aside to unpick the WAGOLL, highlight key words, terms, and spellings within the model response. Some subjects also introduced a WABOLL (What A Bad One Looks Like) for students to identify a deliberate mistake and correct it.

The marking logs are produced at the start of the year in a booklet and are there as evidence of the student progress if ever a visitor arrives in the class. The marking logs provide additional benefits: individual staff can periodically check through them to see if the same kinds of misconception are being made each week, making them more reflective about their own teaching. It also supports interleaving topics. The written record enables staff to select areas to revisit more accurately, rather than relying on memory or using generic questions. The praise section, one of the larger sections, is helpful for parents’ evenings and when completing reports during data drops, with hard evidence of names that appear regularly. Whilst the rationale for implementation was to benefit students and teachers, it also supports leaders in monitoring. Is it happening on a regular basis and are teachers within each team being consistent in how they provide feedback?

Implementation


Implementation is a key factor in any organisational change. When the marking log concept was devised, a pilot study within the school used to test how it would work. Ten staff across eight departments were involved in the pilot study, with a variety of roles and responsibilities across the school. They were asked to record the time they spent using the marking log as well as qualitative questions about the design, format, and ease of use. All members of the pilot study found this to be significantly more time-efficient and beneficial to their students. So once the system had been finalised, a whole school launch was primed for success. A significant portion of the staff had concrete evidence that marking logs were effective and reduced workload, providing leaders with advocates that supported the move.



The school will continue to monitor the way in which they provide feedback, not resting on their laurels, potentially making minor tweaks to their system over time. They appear to have reached the holy grail of providing good quality timely feedback in a consistent whole school approach whilst reducing the workload associated with marking.

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