When you research verbal feedback, very little is found. In fact, it seems that there is a massive gap surrounding this area, especially when it is (in my point of view) the most effective form of feedback that can be given. Think of an instance when you have been given feedback – think about when you were given feedback in a written form and then a time when you have been given feedback in a verbal form. When you are then able to combine both of these together, the impact is tremendous.
I was asked to share my findings of verbal feedback and trying to find evidence to back me up is proving a difficult task. (If anyone has any research/articles/findings to prove the impact that verbal feedback has, I would be very appreciative).
We have been working on re-writing our Feedback and Marking Policy. Thinking about ways to ‘work smarter and not harder’ we have been trialling verbal feedback as a key method of marking (refer to older blog post about verbal feedback). Pupil interviews prove that they find this type of marking much more useful and key to driving their progress especially in writing. They can talk about ‘why’ they find it more useful, often alluding to the fact that when they read comments left in their book, they sometimes don’t actually understand what it is the teacher is asking them to do. You all have those pupils whose ‘next steps’ seem to be the same piece after piece. When these children were given verbal feedback in class they were able to question the teacher and really ensure they understood what they needed to do next to improve their work.
I can hear you asking the question, well where do you find the time to fit this in? When you know something works, you find the time.
Hattie in his book Visible Learning for Teachers (2012 – Routledge) asserts that, “ The mistake I made was seeing feedback as something teachers provided to students. I discovered that feedback is most powerful when it is from the student to the teacher. What they know, what they understand, where they make errors, when they have misconceptions, when they are not engaged – then teaching and learning can by synchronized and powerful. Feedback to teachers makes learning visible.”
During a verbal feedback session, the perfect opportunity arises for the pupils to talk about their work to their teacher and to discuss what they have done well and what they think they need to improve. Have this learning conversation with pupils in your class…you will be surprised (or not surprised) to see what they already know and how their ‘misconceptions’ are hindering them from taking that next step. Let them discuss their work with you, talking about the intricacies and details. Through this ‘coaching’ dialogue, they will begin to understand how to improve their own work, and if not, then it provides the perfect time for you to explain their misconceptions and how that ‘next step’ can be made.
If you are still dubious about the power that verbal feedback can have on progress, try it. Set aside a ten minute slot to have a learning conversation with a child about their writing. Have key questions as prompts but let them guide the discussion. Get them to show you the things they did well and areas they think they need to improve. How will they make these improvements? Make sure the children are writing key things down so they know what has been said and so they can independently improve their work. After the conversation is complete, get them to make improvements to their work.
Try this for a few weeks with your whole class or just key pupils. See what happens to the progress they make and come back and share the results. Since the research isn’t there, let’s create it ourselves…