Feedback for Action

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Feedback.

What is it and how does it work?

If we really want to make sure the feedback we give promotes the idea of moving learning, and therefore learners, forward, we have to consider how we frame the feedback and what its core focus was. In addition one of the biggest frustration in the process of providing feedback is we repeatedly find that students have not “acted on it”. To combat the latter issues, by giving feedback as an action, students are essentially set a task to address any learning needs we have uncovered (whether support or stretch). Importantly whatever action we expect we must also afford the time for this to take place. The are numerous ways of doing this but below is a selection of possible feedback for action themes:

  • Redraft or re-do: You provide an opportunity to improve a piece of work, students may at times be provided with prompts for exactly how work could be improved or an exemplar to compare to and work toward. How we are informed about what the prompts are is down to how we decided to check the work (see Whole Class Feedback as a possible method). Try not to make this about improving presentation or describing what the work ‘looks like’, that misses the opportunity to move learning forward and also takes up your time.
  • Rehearse or repeat: It may be that learners are showing or at least beginning to show a good grasp of knowledge, so the feedback could be to build confidence toward fluency in a topic, for example working on a further set of similar maths problems, rehearsing phrases in French or Welsh. The repetition is to also strengthen memory around the process.
  • Revisit and then re-try: Looking at work may alert you to significant issues with knowledge gaps or misconceptions. Instead of repeating this feedback ad nauseum simple make the decision to re-teach a learning episode in the near future and the feedback is “we will go through this again and then you can have another go at ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z'”.
  • Re-learn and then re-test: Following tests, assessments or any task where students were expected to prepare and revise/learn a body of knowledge before hand, feedback could focus on getting learners to identify what aspects were most difficult and signal where they had gaps in knowledge. They should then be encouraged, or even directed, to engage in a suitable recall and retrieval task to revise this better.
  • Research then record: If it is evident a piece of work is in need of improvement through reference to more ideas, case studies, texts, examples, or evidence the feedback for action could be about doing some online research/reading of a suggested text/use of suggested notes and then record what they found out.
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Doing the DIRTy work!

D.I.R.T or Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time has become a popular mainstay of feedback for action in classrooms in recent years. It is a simple but potentially very effective in providing a vehicle for encouraging action based on feedback. It a a simple way of framing the ‘time for improvement’ within a lesson – when any of the above action type feedback tasks can take place. Depending on the task and the nature of the feedback it can take a significant chunk of a lesson, or more commonly 10-15 minutes. What it shouldn’t become is a token gesture to improvement and it needn’t be used for every task you ever provide feedback on. D.I.R.T can applied to an incredibly wide range of feedback strategies, and in addition to those already covered on this page a selection of others could include:

  • Focused editing: Similar to ‘Redraft or re-do’, students could respond to SPAG issues, or improve certain words within their piece of work.
  • Personalised tasks: D.I.R.T can be tricky in that there maybe 3 or 4 improvement tasks that would benefit different members of a class. You don’t want to give them all the same feedback for action if that does not apply to them. You also do not want to write out the D.I.R.T task 20…25…30 times in students books or on their work (your time for planning is precious!). Instead you could bring in aspects of Target and Symbol Marking and Whole Class Feedback style checking (see those pages) where you notice a few issues commonly arising in the work as you look through it so you jot down what these are and what a relevant improvement task and feedback for action would be. You might ‘call’ these issues T1, T2 and T3. Instead of wasting time (and ink) simply write the Target T code in the student’s book instead of the lengthy comment – save those for a PowerPoint slide or similar for display at the start of the next lesson so that students can make a note of them themselves and then do the improvement (so you also have a meaningful ‘Do Now’ style starter prepared too!).
  • Find the time: A common complaint about D.I.R.T is time itself, and not having it in a lesson to provide the time needed for the action linked to the feedback to be done with any credible effort. A solution could be to set it for home learning.
Marking, Feedback, Assessment and DIRT - St Julians School

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 5: Feedback’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.
  • Sherrington, T., and Caviglioli, O., 2020. TEACHING WALKTHRUS. [S.l.]: JOHN CATT EDUCATIONAL LTD.


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