6. Feedback

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Feedback.

So that…pupils think about and further develop their knowledge and skills.

What is Feedback and why is it important?

Students need to be shown what to aim for, and then once they embark on their learning journey, feedback that is precise and timely keeps the learning on track, and eventually will communicate when they have reached the end goal. From there, the next goal can be set. In his contribution to the book, ‘Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice’, the education researcher Professor John Hattie draws a definition of feedback as:

“actions taken by an external agent to provide information regarding some aspect(s) of one’s task performance”

‘Feedback in schools’ – from ‘Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice’.

Within Hattie’s research and meta analyses of over 800 educational studies on approaches and interventions within classroom settings (published in the Visible Learning book), effective Feedback ranks amongst one of the most highly effective approaches reported in literature, to unlock potential and promote progress in learning. Hattie also goes on to identify four categories of feedback types that teachers usually provide, as follows:

  1. Feedback on the task: Essentially is the work correct or incorrect? This has a part to play in building surface knowledge.
  2. Feedback on the process: This is about the ways students are using their newly learned knowledge. Its aim should always be to facilitate immediate correcting of errors. For example you might tell a student “to rephrase the sentence using a key word in place of ‘X'”.
  3. Feedback on self-regulation: This means giving advice and prompts about the way students plan, monitor and evaluate their own approaches. It helps provide them with insight for desired learning behaviours. You might say to them something like “I can see you have put a lot of effort into researching this paragraph, that will help you writing the report on ‘Y'”.
  4. Feedback on personality: It is making statements about personal attributes such as “you’re so clever”, “You’re brilliant at science”. This is the least helpful in the context of supporting learning gains and doesn’t really have any impact on improvement at all, what is more if you wrote it down then it also ate into your precious time!

It is worth noting, following on from the above definition, that feedback and marking are not the same thing. Marking is one of many forms of feedback, and arguably can generate many inefficient approaches if we are not careful. There are many high-quality and high-impact approaches to feedback that do not need to rely on the traditional ‘use of a red pen’ at all and therefore not all approaches will resemble traditional ‘mark making’.

Avoiding bad Feedback

Bad feedback, confusing or ineffective feedback can be worse than no feedback at all in the way it influences learners or lacks any informative role in moving learning forward. Basic criteria to check whether feedback offered and received is ‘better feedback’ is whether it informs a learner about where to go next, and also whether it informs the teacher of what or how to plan next, is it manageable in terms of impact and time taken, and is it appropriate for the subject or topic. Feedback is often to referred to as a loop in educational contexts as a result as below:

How to ensure that feedback leads to real learning | Reflecting ...
Feedback Loop illustrated in Chapter 5 Feedback of Making Every Lesson Count

Feedback in relation to planning

There are a number of ways in which feedback given by a teacher and received by a teacher can combine to inform next steps in learning and therefore our planning. Consider the following timings/occasions:

  • During a lesson: The feedback received and gleaned from responses to questioning, from your sensory scanning of the room, allows us to make in-flight adjustments (for example: dealing with misconceptions on the spot, stopping a task and bringing everyone together for some input, launch into an extension etc.)
  • Inter-lesson: Between one lesson to the next we can reflect on how a lesson went, identify any misconceptions or issues from assessments we set, or ‘data’ we received (perhaps from Exit Tickets or quizzing during the lesson) enabling us to plan for any re-teaching or key recaps before it is too late.
  • Inter-unit/module: Following unit completion we can more broadly reflect on any common issues or gaps in knowledge that remain amongst the class. Again, planning for follow up in some shape or form.
  • During Curriculum reviews: Often occurring at the end of year, after receiving cohort scale feedback from exam boards, or when writing department action plans we can consider where there is noticeable underachievement in a course, and if a trend, consider and plan deliberately how to tackle it differently.

This section explores methods and means of feedback that aim to have a positive impact on learning, while also considering manageability and the potential for universal application to subject areas.

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 5: Feedback’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.
  • [extract] Sutton, R., Hornsey, M.J., & Douglas, K.M. (Eds., 2011), Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice. Peter Lang Publishing: New York.