Teaching pupils how to give feedback…

As part of Assessment for Learning, the use of peer and self evaluation has become a standard part of classroom practice.  However, is it being done effectively and actually helping children progress in their work?

Di Pardoe gave our school a few tips to help generate more effective feedback, such as the use of trios and ‘book on top of book’ marking.  Trios (pairing children in threes rather than twos) has had a visible impact on the discussions that take place in the classroom. Previously when classes were observed, you would have various ‘pairs’ of children not exchanging ideas, whereas when children are grouped in ‘trios’ the ideas that are generated tend to be more substantial.  Three children add a different dynamic to a group and it does help to elicit more discussion.

Another simple idea is to get children to put their book on top of their partner’s book and to self and peer assess their work together.  This way the pairs discuss the things that work well and the things that need to be improved based on success criteria.  This simple change, ensures that children are focused on one piece of work and can discuss the ‘next steps’ together rather than in isolation.

Hattie discusses the importance of teaching children how to give feedback based on prompts and key questions.  He affirms that, “students and their peers regarded giving and receiving peer feedback to be a potentially enriching experience because it allowed them to identify their learning gaps, collaborate on error detection and correction, develop their ability to self-regulate, including monitoring their own mistakes, and initiate their own corrective measures or strategies.  A major message is that the positive value of peer feedback requires deliberate instructional suppport (such the use of Gan’s model) of the three major feedback levels and associated prompts for each level” (Hattie, p. 150, 2012).  Therefore, it is essential that teachers model and coach pupils through effective feedback.

This is where visualisers become an invaluable resource. They can give teachers the chance to model how feedback can be given.  Through the use of scaffolds and prompts, children can learn to provide useful, focused and ‘learning’ centred feedback’ that can improve the learning of all involved.

Hattie makes reference to Nuthall’s (2007) research which suggests that 80% of verbal feedback comes from peers (Hattie, p. 147, 2012).  This highlights the importance of teaching children how to give effective feedback.  If we just expect children to know how to provide feedback, then teachers are actually doing more of a disservice to their class than not engaging in such activities.  For feedback to be useful and seen as a positive experience, teachers must model ‘good’ feedback and provide the pupils with scaffolds, frames and prompts to help guide and coach them through the feedback process.

What does peer and self assessment look like in your class?  How do you teach children to give effective feedback that will help (not hinder) the learning process?


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How to…achieve a work/life balance…

For the #29daysofwriting challenge, we have been asked to post a #howto blog.  So, as I’m  such an advocate of creating a balance between work FullSizeRender (3)and home, I aim to create a ‘How to’ list for those looking to regain their ‘life’!  Many of my previous blog posts refer to many things that I will probably list below.

Health and wellbeing is priority, especially when you work in the world of education where pupils, parents and colleagues can permeate everything. It can often be very hard to switch off, waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas or expectations for the next day.  It is important, no matter how much you love your job, to step away, clear your head and gain a new perspective on things.  Time away, reflection and a ‘life’ outside of work, will make you a better teacher, leader…will make you much more effective at whatever role you do.

Here is a list that I aim to live by to keep my balance right…

  1. Family is always priority.  If leaders say that their job comes first, then they have their priorities in the wrong order…full stop.  Leaders need to stop making their staff feel guilty when ‘life’ makes an appearance.
  2. Challenge the status quo.  Don’t accept things, just because that is ‘how they have always been done’.
  3. Leave work at least two times a week by 4:15 at the latest, with nothing in your hands.
  4. Take time to reflect – ‘carve’ out time in your day to do this.  Reflection and ‘time out’ to see things clearly will allow you to prioritise things in your mind, giving you time to realise that you really can accomplish everything on your ‘to-do list’ or that problems that have arisen (as they do!) aren’t as big as you first suspected.
  5. Eat well and stay hydrated!  (I definitely need to take note of this – though the picture above is what my whole family eat every weekend – usually there would be heaps of broccoli involved-athletic, growing kids need their greens in abundance, but so do we adults.)
  6. Enjoy the small moments and give yourself time to really ‘take them in’ – mindfulness – is this what we call it now?
  7. Don’t worry about things…As the poster in my office drawn by Mary Engelbreit quotes, “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” Or as the Bible states in Matthew, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
  8. Devote your time when you get home to your family and do your work when the children have gone to bed if you need to.  (Make sure your other half doesn’t feel left out of this either! It can be hard to juggle them all.) If you live alone then you can spend more time on other things.
  9. Always think of ways to ‘work smarter, not harder’.
  10. Take more baths (instead of showers!)…great way to ‘soak’ away the stresses of the day and ‘reflect’.  Two in one!
  11. Make time for you – doing whatever makes you feel great.  I would say running here (but I’ve not been doing much of that lately!)…I need to get on this one! Again, a great time to clear your head.
  12. YOU have to lead and model a positive work-life balance, no one else can do it for you!  Especially if you are a leader – it’s imperative you model this, teachers need someone else to lead the way in this with the pressures that schools can bring.  You must EXPECT it of your staff.

I’m sure if I kept thinking I could add more to this list – but I’m giving myself a twenty minute time limit for the #29daysofwriting blogs.  It’s a good start and I need to ensure I keep to it.

What about you?

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Continuing to reflect on feedback…Hattie…

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The practice of assessment in the primary classroom has come a long way.  With the rise of assessment for learning, assessment is used as a continual tool to understand pupils learning and where their gaps are and how to move them on.  Continuing reading in Chapter 7 of Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, he moves on to talk about ‘Rapid Formative Assessment’.   Research that he refers to highlights the effectiveness of assessment that is done during the lesson, catching children at integral points of their learning to help them progress and move on.

Evidence stems from the work done by Black and William (1998) Inside the Black Box, when the rise of AFL really came about.  From this we began to see success criteria, children being taught to self and peer assess each other’s work and assessment really as a tool to drive the learning of every pupil in class.  1998 was 18 years ago.  You would think that these strategies would now be firmly established in every school across the country.  But, no.  Why is this?  Why has it taken so long for teachers to begin using assessment as a key driver in pupil progress and achievement, not merely as a tool to find a ‘level’ of a child when required?

Now with the disappearance of levels, perhaps all schools will begin researching and trialing the most effective ways of assessing their pupils progress.  The release of the Commission Report was one step closer to schools finding what works best for them, but having talked to other headteachers it seems that many schools have just jumped on board with ready-made systems that again will prove to only be pulled out at the end of each term when teachers and schools are required to report on pupil attainment and progress.  The move to ‘no levels’ has been the perfect opportunity to run with the notion of ‘rapid assessment’ using purposeful assessment to drive learning and teaching within the classroom.  It has provided an opportunity for us to re-think how we teach and really understand what will allow our pupils to achieve their full potential.

This means that we must adapt and change.  Schools and the people within them must learn to be flexible, must learn to constantly adjust their practice to provide the best for each child in their classroom.  Every child is unique and will learn in different ways and at different paces.  It is up to us to assess these situations to always provide what is needed in a quick and timely manner.  Therefore, assessment for learning within every lesson is vital to truly interpret the key blockers and movers for the children in your classroom. Employing the strategies to empower your pupils to continue to ‘learn’ is essential for them to continue to make good progress.  Assessing them throughout the learning process enables teachers to quickly act, providing them with the tools necessary to continue to move forwards.

What does assessment look like in your school?  Is is part of everyday learning?

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Mistakes…are you learning from them?

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“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lot almost three hundred games.  Twenty-six time I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

~Michael Jordan~

I often use Michael Jordan in many of my assemblies as he is an excellent example of ‘famous failures’, effort, perseverance and resilience.  He always talks about the mistakes he made and how they always propelled him to go that much further and do that much better.  Most of my life ‘Air Jordan’ has been an influence.  My number always had to be 23 when I played basketball and volleyball throughout high school.

So when I came across the above quote in Chapter 7 of John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, I knew I was onto a winner!  I never knew how much writing and reflection could come from one chapter.  There is so much valuable information and research packed into it, that I’m actually enjoying reading just a few pages and then taking time to think about what has been mentioned.

Hattie discusses how we as teachers can become complacent, either having a fixed mindset that we know best and not wanting to change practice, or thinking that we are doing things so well that we don’t want to look to continually improve.  Growth mindset underpins much of the philosophy he mentions.  Focusing on how a culture of confidence in making mistakes allows for greater progress, Hattie highlights that errors can contribute to the greatest learning.  We know this.  If we ponder this, it makes perfect sense.  So why do we still have classrooms where children are afraid to make mistakes and want to get things right, all of the time?  A major radical shift in culture is required as mistakes are what make us better, in everything that we do.  As I’m always touting to the kids, our greatest learning comes from our mistakes…as long as we learn from them and don’t keep repeating ‘silly’ mistakes.

The ethos always starts with the adults and staff in a school and as Hattie quite rightly identifies, “Failure or learning from errors is critical also in the staffroom.  A school needs to have a culture of no blame, a willingness to investigate what is not working (or what is not working with which students)” (p. 140, 2012). Teachers too must feel confident in trying new things in the classroom, researching what works best for their pupils at that time.  Therefore, if we can’t celebrate the learning from ‘mistakes’ that we might make in our own classrooms, then how can we ever learn what truly works?  So whether or not learning is successful, “with failure, we often ask ‘why?”;similarly, with success, we must ask ‘why?’.  Evaluation of processes, products, people and programs needs to be an inherent part of all schools. ” (p. 141, 2012).

And this is where the school development plan and self-evaluation would come in…

Always looking to reflect and improve…

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We need to keep looking into this feedback thing…

Screen-Shot-2013-07-04-at-11.34.33-PMContinuing on reflections of Chapter 7 of Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, I think I have finally begun finding further evidence for the use of verbal feedback in lessons.  He goes on to talk about how teachers consider feedback to be far more useful than the students do.  This is a telltale sign isn’t it?

This backs up exactly what the pupils have been telling me when I have been questioning them about what they see as being the most effective feedback. Hattie explains that,         “(students find teachers) feedback confusing, non-reasoned and not understandable.  Worse, students often think that they “have understood the teacher’s feedback when they have not, and even when they do understand, claim to have difficulties in applying it to their learning” (Goldstein, 2006; Nuthall, 2007) (Hattie, pg. 137, 2012).  Hence, giving weight to my argument that verbal feedback must be the most effective feedback given to a pupil as long as it is done correctly.  Hattie talks about feedback that is given at the right time, during the lesson.  Even if we are building in time the following day for children to improve and respond, this cannot replace feedback that is timely and relevant during a point at which the child is fully aware of the learning taking place as they are ‘involved’ in it.  The following day may be too late, it as become ‘past’ learning no matter how relevant we may make it. I’m not saying there is no worth in feedback comments being written after learning has taken place, but if we can provide most of our feedback at pivotal learning times, this must be far more effective than anything else we do.

Hattie goes on to assert that, “Teachers see feedback more in terms of how much they give than the more important consideration of how much feedback is received by students” (p. 137, 2012). Again, I think this is the Ofsted culture we have fallen into – focusing on trying to always evidence and prove that we are acknowledging children’s work – when not really looking at children’s learning and focusing on the feedback that really matters.  All it takes is a conversation with the pupils in a class to understand whether or not they can respond to the feedback they have been given – no matter what form it has taken.  You can quickly determine whether or not the feedback has been effective whether it has been evidenced or not.  Therefore, if learning is truly at the heart of the classroom, then surely the most effective feedback should be used, whether you can see it in the books or not – that isn’t the point.  Are the children moving on in their learning?  Do they really know what they need to do to improve their work and move on in their learning?  Can they ‘explain’ what they will change and why?

For me, if children can confidently and articulately express their ideas around these key questions, I can tell whether or not feedback is effective in that classroom or not.   Talk to the kids – look at their progress, the depth and breadth of their learning.  I don’t judge on the amount of teacher marking that is in the books.  Let’s go straight back to the children.

Go to your classrooms and ask your pupils what feedback they find most effective.  What now needs to change?  I suggest everyone goes and reads Chapter 7 in John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers….infact, if you can, go read the whole book!



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Reflecting on Chapter 7 of Hattie’s Visible Learning


“…This places feedback in the top ten influences on achievement, although there is considerable variability- but how to account for the variability? My argument is that feedBack works at four levels and addresses three questions”

(Hattie, p. 130, Visible Learning for Teachers 2012)

After pondering verbal feedback further, I decided to get in touch with Shirley Clarke. In fact, I sent her an e-mail after I had written my blog last night in a quest to focus my research into verbal feedback. She promptly got back in touch with me and suggested I read chapter 7 of John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers (I have all of his books in our Leadership Library at School so I swiftly took it home).

Here is a chapter that reinforces everything we have been talking about with staff and issues that I have been thinking and debating with myself over these past few months. First in this chapter he explores the three feedback questions; Where am I going? How am I going there? and Where to next?

From this he discusses the four levels of feedback which relate to the type of learners and learning that is taking place. This section ends with findings from research that suggest that praise alongside feedback dilutes the intention of the feedback message. He asserts that praise should be left out of feedback regarding learning.

I am now thinking about all of those comments that teachers write in exercise books, “Well done. What excellent work…etc,etc.” Those comments that really are intended to highlight to ‘other’ people external to the class that they have ‘marked’ the work. When we were doing our first book scrutiny of the year, these were the questions we were asking ourselves. What is the ‘purpose’ of this marking? Is it necessary to ‘praise’ children’s work? Is there a difference between the feedback on ‘work’ and ‘learning’? Are we too quick to give praise on ‘work’ when it may not be really deserved? Are we creating a culture in which praise is just ‘expected’? As Hattie suggests, it ties into Dweck’s research in Growth Mindset and her suggestion that ‘effort’ should be praised (obviously in the right ways).

It would be interesting to hear other people’s views on praise and feedback on learning. What are your thoughts? Very interesting reading if you haven’t read it yet…

Thank you to Shirley Clarke for putting me onto the right path…


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