Thoughts on Feedback

When considering the feedback I give my classes, I have always wondered have I got the effort vs impact balance right; am I using my time wisely when I put effort into the feedback I give?

I have always been a fan of whole class feedback (WCF), and there are many different proformas out there for use. What I have always tried to include are the ideas of what has gone well, what could be complete even better and what the most effective next steps are. Having played around with thoughts on this topic for years, the best WCF sheets I have come across is this one by Claire Hill, which while identifying what want well and the next steps, also provides a model (or exemplar) alongside any misconceptions that have been picked up throughout the work.

I have often reflected on feedback, and how like many things, when implementing it we need to remember it is a process and not an event. We cannot just hand over feedback to students, expect them to interpret it correctly and for it to have the desired impact on their learning. As I continue reading through Practice Perfect by Lemov, Woolway and Yezzi, I again am taken aback by their ability to codify a process to make it as efficient and effective as possible.

Instantly I can see how each of the steps (or rules as they are called in the book) can be used to improve the process of embedding feedback. Students need to practice using feedback; they are well versed in receiving it, but do they understand the process of embedding it within their practice? I cannot remember the number of times I have told a student “include units in your answers” and then they continue to forget to include them! I need to consider how soon after providing this feedback I get the student to practice this. If I give the student a set of questions to instantly do, asking them to include units throughout the entire question, getting them to apply the feedback first, and reflect on it later, I may yield longer-lasting, more impactful results. This would also shorten the feedback loop allowing me to give in-situ feedback, shaping the students practice as they are completing it.

One of the reasons I really like Claire Hill’s WCF quad is that it puts praise in the first box, in the top right-hand corner. The power of the positive is something I have always used as part of feedback, but I have often forgotten that students will make more rapid improvements in areas they are already good at then areas where they struggle. What I really like about the rule “the power of the positive” is a reminder to ensure students know exactly why they are getting certain things right, and reminding them what they are doing to get it right.

One of the things I have recently considered around the feedback I give pupils, whether that be in lesson or on a written assessment, is making it more “little and often”; focusing on limiting myself with the amount of feedback I give and making it an everyday thing. By doing this, feedback becomes more of a process than an event. Students understand that feedback is part of learning, constantly reshaping what they know and how they apply it, rather than thinking of feedback of a tool used solely to fix problems. Implementing feedback becomes a more manageable and natural process if it is provided often, and in small chunks.

The final area of feedback I have reflected on heavily is the language that I use, and how the feedback in structured. Within the rules of describe the solution (not the problem) and lock it in,techniques are described to use language such as “to improve x, what you need to do is y”; this type of language ensures students understand exactly what the feedback is trying to affect, making it more impactful. To ensure the feedback has more chance of sticking, I have begun prioritising the feedback for my students, telling them which next step they need to do first as a class, and spend time explaining why.

My biggest learning point throughout reading this chapter is that no matter what we do with feedback, just like launching any initiative, it must be constantly monitored and evaluated; we cannot just assume it has landed and had the desired effect.

FeedbackThe processFocus on …Be wary of …
Practice Using FeedbackStudents are well versed in receiving feedback, but a focus needs to be “how to use feedback”Building a culture where students get better at using feedback by doing it a lot

Practice putting feedback into action often
Students trained to get feedback, not use it

Forgetting to check whether the feedback has worked
Apply First, Then ReflectMake the loop go: Practice, feedback, do over (using feedback), repeat if needed, reflectAsk student to apply feedback first

Putting the “do over” in place before reflecting

A process that provides more “data” to reflect on
Focussing on reflection too much before seeing the effect of the feedback

Reflecting before the do over
Shorten the Feedback LoopSimple, small instant changes can be more effective than a complex rewriting of a skill

The longer the time since being in the situation the more it will be forgotten, the less impactful the feedback will be
The speed of the feedback

Giving feedback right away even if it is imperfect

In-situ feedback, in-class feedback that is live and have a fast, measurable results
Focussing on getting the strength of the feedback to high, to the detriment of the speed of the feedback

Trying to make the feedback “too perfect”
Use the Power of PositiveReinforce what has been done well by:

Stating what they got right

Stating how to replicate it again

Stating how they apply it to new setting
Letting student know what they have done right

Ensuring students have improved their strength to the maximum (students will most rapidly improve what they are already good at)
Focussing only on what has been done wrong

Only using feedback as a tool for repair

Being vague about what a student is doing well
Limit YourselfLimit the feedback to what will make the most differenceImpactful feedback that can be tracked

Using a tracker to monitor feedback from multiple sources
Providing too much feedback

Providing feedback from too many sources
Make It an Everyday ThingNormalise the process of feedback

Make providing feedback a consistent process
Giving feedback as soon as possible as part of instruction, questioning and practiceWaiting till summative assessments to provide feedback

Providing only positive OR negative feedback
Describe the Solution (Not the Problem)Focus on what needs to be done to improve, not what has gone wrongUsing phrases that begin with “what to do” or “make sure you”

Using shorthand wherever possible for common feedback e.g. remember units
Using words such as “don’t” or phrases such as “what not to do”
Lock It InSummarise feedback

Prioritise feedback

Identify the next steps to be actioned for the students
Confirming the students understanding of the feedback givenAssuming students interpret the feedback in the way you intended
Download a PDF of this table here

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