Instruction

12. Feedback

Video transcript

Presenter intro: Helena Moore

We all want our pupils to improve, and high-quality, specific feedback shows pupils how to get better. There are many ways in which teachers can give effective feedback, and they don’t have to take up a huge amount of time. Verbal feedback in lessons can be effective, but when it’s planned and delivered well, pupils will know how to act from the feedback you give them. Good feedback helps pupils to move from where they are now, to where you want them to be.

Presenter main

Feedback is about sharing information with pupils to change either their effort or the goals of their work. This can be specific to the task, the areas of learning or to do with pupils’ self-regulation. Effective feedback shows pupils what success looks like in a task or problem, where they are in relation to that success, and what practical steps they can take to close that gap. Feedback of this type can help pupils to monitor and evaluate their own learning. For example, in a numeracy class, reminding pupils that they can use their fingers to add up two numbers provides them with a specific strategy that they can use and check for when they do the task again. Or when competing an addition sentence, showing them an example that accurately uses the equals sign and an example that misses this out can help them to come up with a better judgment about their own work and identify a specific way to improve. Pupils can then apply this feedback when they try the task again. Over time, feedback that shows pupils where they are going, how they are doing, and what they need to do next, can help them to self-regulate their learning.

There are a number of key ideas that teachers need to bear in mind when planning and implementing feedback. The first is to do with ensuring that pupils can act upon your feedback: it’s important to make feedback manageable. Whilst there may be lots of different things your pupils need to do to improve, they can only focus on a few things at a time. Identify one or two specific actions for pupils to do, model how to make those improvements, and make sure that you provide them time to act on the feedback. Feedback that is concrete and clear can be particularly helpful. For example, telling pupils to, “Offer a more thoughtful analysis of Macbeth’s character by discussing his doubts as well as his determination”, will be better than telling pupils to, “Expand on your points with more thorough analysis of Macbeth’s character.”

Equally, giving direct feedback that gets to the point quickly works well. Try reducing the amount of words that you use so that you focus pupils’ attention on what matters most. In PE for example, pupils will have a better understanding of what to improve if you say, “Try again, this time put all your weight on your left foot”, instead of, “I want you to have another go at that, and this time when you’re coming to your run-up, remember to place all your weight on your left foot.”

And remember to give pupils enough time to use feedback to improve their work. In order for feedback to work, pupils need to understand it and be able to act upon it.

Another consideration is how to make feedback appealing to pupils. Some pupils respond better than others to feedback. The reasons for this are often to do with complex social factors, and teachers need to be sensitive to this. When giving feedback, show pupils improving work is a normal and continual part of learning by reminding them that the purpose of giving feedback is to help them to get better. Use a neutral tone so that the feedback doesn’t feel personal or judgemental.

So far, we’ve talked about how teachers can support pupils to get the best out of feedback, but it’s important to ensure that feedback is manageable for teachers too. Many teachers spend a lot of time writing detailed, written comments on pupil work, and this isn’t always the best approach. Try using verbal feedback during lessons, in place of written feedback after lessons, where possible.

Another way to make the best use of your time is to prioritize feedback that will benefit the majority of the class. That means checking if pupils hold common misconceptions, as well as identifying trends in pupil work. Good feedback can have a significant impact on pupil learning, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to respond to every single thing that your pupils have done in a lesson. Giving effective feedback involves focusing on the things that pupils can do to make the most impact on their learning.

Presenter exemplification framing

In the next example, you will see an Ambition Institute coach model a way of giving verbal feedback to the whole class. As you watch, pay attention to how they do the following:

  • Focuses on common misconceptions
  • Provides specific actions for pupils, and enough time for pupils to respond to feedback

Exemplification: Ambition Institute coach

In this example, I’m going to model how we can give whole class feedback to address misconceptions and provide specific actions for pupils to improve. Now, this is a year nine RE class, who have been studying Christian beliefs. They’ve been practicing writing paragraphs that follow a ‘point, evidence and explain’ format. And in their most recent assessments, pupils were asked to explain what Christians believe about salvation. And I noticed that lots of the pupils demonstrated a common misconception, that the Bible was written by Jesus. In this model, I’m going to zoom in on the moment where I am identifying this misconception, and I’m using a model answer to show them what good looks like.

“So, what we’ve got on the board here is a good example of how to quote from the Bible. I’ll read it out for you. So we see in the Bible, in the book of John, where it says, “For God loved the world so that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Now, what I’ve seen in some of your responses when you’ve been quoting the Bible, is that you’ve used the phrase, Jesus says. And unfortunately, this is incorrect, because the Bible was written by lots of different people, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And although the New Testament does focus on Jesus’ life and teachings, it was actually written after his death, by people who were not around during his life. And it’s actually more accurate to use one of the following: in the Bible, it says, the Bible teaches that, or according to the Bible. And then you can also refer to the book where that reference is found.

Now, look back at your own work and make sure that you’ve cited the Bible correctly. I’m going to give you three minutes to do that, and I’ll leave the phrases on the board to help you.”

So let’s focus on a couple of features within this model. First, I prioritized giving feedback about a common misconception that many pupils have with regards to Christianity, that Jesus wrote the Bible or that Jesus, at least, wrote the New Testament. And this is something that pupil often get wrong. Now understanding who wrote the Bible and when it was written, is crucial to understanding the beliefs and practices of Christianity and other Abrahamic religions, and is a concept that pupils need to master. And therefore it’s an important misconception to address.

Second, I gave pupils a specific action to improve their work. They had to identify how they had cited evidence from the Bible, and make sure that they had done so correctly. Pupils then had time to act on feedback in the lesson, with sentence starters to help them to be accurate. You’ll notice how my feedback was brief and to the point, and I delivered it in a neutral tone. I want pupils to act on my feedback quickly, and recognize that this is something that all learners need to do to improve.

Presenter key ideas

In this video, we’ve considered how feedback can support pupil learning, and some of the ways in which teachers can deliver feedback effectively. Before we finish, take a moment to reflect on the key ideas of the video. Which of the following ideas do you think the example illustrated the best?

  • Being aware of common misconceptions and discussing with experienced colleagues how to help pupils master important concepts
  • Focusing on specific actions for pupils and providing time for pupils to respond to feedback
  • Using verbal feedback during lessons in place of written feedback after lessons where possible
  • Thinking carefully about how to ensure feedback is specific and helpful when using peer- or self-assessment

Presenter summary

Feedback is one of the most important tools that we have as a teacher. It can have a profound and positive impact on our pupils. Proper implementation can give pupils the support they need and encourage them to ultimately monitor their own learning.

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Teaching challenge

Ms Kearney is confident when leading the class in instructional sequences that support pupils to make sense of new material. However, pupils sometimes still need input to clarify misunderstandings and correct mistakes. How can Ms Kearney efficiently provide feedback through her instruction to support pupil learning?

Key idea

Feedback helps pupils to improve and to manage their own learning. Effective feedback should be deployed after considering its benefits and costs and allow pupils the opportunity to respond.

Evidence summary

Accurate and helpful feedback

Used effectively, feedback can have a significant impact on pupil learning (EEF, 2018). However, it requires care and attention to ensure feedback is helpful. Done badly, teacher feedback can actually inhibit learning (Kluger & De Nisi, 1996).

There are many types of feedback, all of which have strengths and weaknesses. A key feature of effective feedback is that its content helps a pupil to answer at least one of three questions:

  • Where am I going? What does success look like in this problem or area?
  • How am I doing? Relative to success, where am I?
  • Where to next? What practical steps can I take to close the gap? (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).

While teachers often choose to give written feedback, we have little evidence that this is effective for long term pupil outcomes. It is also highly time-consuming (EEF, 2016). Therefore, Ms Kearney should first use the questions above to ensure the content of feedback is useful. She can then decide the most time efficient method to deliver this feedback – written or verbal – rather than assuming written marking is best.

Self and peer feedback linked to these questions is far more time efficient than written teacher marking. However, it is difficult for novices to assess quality or give feedback on complex tasks (Christodoulou, 2017). Therefore, Ms Kearney might consider encouraging pupils to feed back on more straightforward tasks and to scaffold this with a checklist to support those who need it.

Whole-class feedback involves teachers reviewing all pupils’ work and identifying common misconceptions and errors, before feeding back to the whole class. It is not necessarily tailored to individual needs. However, addressing misconceptions is important for pupil learning and is significantly quicker than written marking (Quigley, 2018).

Ms Kearney must be careful not to overwhelm pupils with too much negative feedback; if pupils do not believe they can be successful they may avoid the task completely (Kluger & de Nisi, 1996).

Feedback supports pupils to manage their own learning

Over time, effective feedback helps pupils to monitor and regulate their own learning (EEF, 2017). Feedback allows pupils to monitor their current performance and understanding. If pupils have a good grasp of their current performance and a clear sense of their goal, then they should increasingly be able to judge how well they are doing and to regulate their learning by identifying what they need to do to improve.

However, pupils can become dependent on feedback when it is given too frequently (Soderstrom & Bjork, in Hendrick & Macpherson, 2018). Additionally, where pupils are frequently given grades as part of their feedback, they can become preoccupied with ‘how I am doing?’ over ‘where to next?’ (EEF, 2016). Finally, pupils will only act on feedback if they believe they can be successful (Kluger & De Nisi, 1996). Ms Kearney must not only provide accurate feedback but also create time in her lessons to ensure her pupils are able to act on it.

Deciding whether to give feedback

Feedback is part of effective assessment practice (Christodoulou, 2017). However, doing it properly can be time-consuming so Ms Kearney must factor this into her decision about when and whether to give feedback.

If Ms Kearney decides she will give feedback, she needs to be clear what format it will take. For example, if she wants to provide individualised written feedback on extended writing, it will require a lot of her time. She might choose this approach if the feedback is very important but she should also plan significant time for pupils to respond. Dedicated feedback lessons can only be afforded sparingly as there is a curriculum to teach, so these may need to be identified in advance as good assessment practice always has a clear idea about the decision it will be used to support before assessment occurs.

A more efficient approach might be to assess pupil misconceptions through a short exit task. If designed well, analysing the proportion of correct responses could be much quicker and Ms Kearney can then decide to either feed back by reteaching the content, or just move on. Ms Kearney could alternatively feed back to individuals or small groups of pupils who answered incorrectly at an opportune moment during the next lesson.

Considering options for feedback before assessing pupils is effective practice (Wiliam & Leahy, 2015). Ms Kearney should ask herself the following questions in order to make good decisions about how and when to offer pupils feedback:

  • Before I set a task, what will my teaching options be? Is feedback appropriate?
  • If feedback is appropriate, what approaches are there?
  • Of these approaches, bearing in mind my limited time, which is the most efficient for pupil learning?

Nuances and caveats

Feedback and marking are often conflated. Marking is only one type of feedback and has significant downsides in terms of teacher time and the ability of pupils to act on it (EEF, 2016). Marking should be thought of as only one of a number of teacher feedback strategies, each with particular pros and cons.

Data from feedback only needs to be recorded when it is useful for improving pupil outcomes. It is usually more beneficial to ensure pupils have received accurate and helpful feedback that they then act upon.

Key takeaways

Ms Kearney can use feedback to support pupil learning by understanding that:

  • High-quality feedback, written or verbal, is ambitious and specific about how to improve.
  • Over time, feedback supports pupils to monitor and regulate their own learning.
  • Before setting an assessment, teachers need to decide whether feedback will be given and be able to justify their decision.

Further reading

Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the Classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 8–21. bit.ly/ecf-wil9

References

Christodoulou, D. (2017). Making Good Progress: The Future of Assessment for Learning. Oxford: OUP.

Education Endowment Foundation (2016). A marked improvement? A review of the evidence on written marking. bit.ly/ecf-eef8

Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Metacognition and Self-regulated learning Guidance Report. bit.ly/ecf-eef

Education Endowment Foundation (2018). Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit. bit.ly/ecf-EEF12

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Hendrick, C. & McPherson, R. (Eds.). (2018). What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the gap between research and practice. Woodbridge: John Catt.

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996) The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119(2), 254–284.

Quigley, A., (2018). School improvement and taming the ‘marking monster’. Education Endowment Foundation Blog. bit.ly/ecf-qui2

Wiliam, D., & Leahy, S., (2015). Embedding Formative Assessment. Florida: Learning Sciences International.

Check

Answer the questions in the quiz to check your understanding of the evidence summary.

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Reflect

Reminder of key takeaways

Ms Kearney can use feedback to support pupil learning by understanding that:

  • High-quality feedback, written or verbal, is ambitious and specific about how to improve.
  • Over time, feedback supports pupils to monitor and regulate their own learning.
  • Before setting an assessment, teachers need to decide whether feedback will be given and be able to justify their decision.

Reflect on the following questions

  1. What did you see in this module that you already do or have seen in other classrooms?
  2. What do you feel is the gap between your current practice and what you have seen in this module?
  3. Which of the ‘key takeaways’ do you need to focus on? Where and when might you try to apply them to your teaching?