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.
|Feedback||The process||Focus on …||Be wary of …|
|Practice Using Feedback||Students 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 Reflect||Make the loop go: Practice, feedback, do over (using feedback), repeat if needed, reflect||Ask 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 Loop||Simple, 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 Positive||Reinforce 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 Yourself||Limit the feedback to what will make the most difference||Impactful 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 Thing||Normalise the process of feedback|
Make providing feedback a consistent process
|Giving feedback as soon as possible as part of instruction, questioning and practice||Waiting 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 wrong||Using 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 In||Summarise feedback|
Identify the next steps to be actioned for the students
|Confirming the students understanding of the feedback given||Assuming students interpret the feedback in the way you intended|