Feedback – Workload and Impact

Feedback continues to be a topic of hot debate.  As I have now been asked by many people to share our feedback policy, I include the text below, not as a PDF, but within the blog, so that you may take it, copy it and use it as you wish.  I hope that you find it useful or that it serves as a platform for further discussions within your school.

The key thing to think about is ‘What is the purpose of what we are doing?’  In fact, we use this question constantly to fully evaluate what we do, why we do it and what impact it truly is having.  It means we often challenge the ‘status quo’ because we want to do what’s best for our pupils and our school.  Key to any policy change is also to think about the impact of what we are doing to support teacher workload.

Those following the debate arising from a comment regarding something I had said on Twitter last night, will hopefully now realise that the reason, “I expect staff to leave two times a week by 4:15”, is because as a school we put in processes and policies specifically to help ease the workload.  I do expect staff to look after their wellbeing, and therefore, even though I know that some weeks we can’t all stick to this, on the whole, I would hope that they are able to leave with nothing in their hands to go and spend time with their families, enjoy the ‘other’ part of their lives, at least two times a week!  Having time to ‘enjoy’ our life outside of school, makes us more effective in our roles.  Therefore, if teachers aren’t able to do this, I would question why.  And yes, I would then have that conversation about what we can do to help support their well being and work life balance.

Feedback within the classroom is just one huge aspect of helping teacher’s workload.  In fact, one of our senior Key Stage 2 teachers is now coming to the full second year of not having taken a book home to mark – what a huge impact on helping decrease this type of workload.  But, the impact on pupil’s progress has been phenomenal.  For a week, I sat and interviewed every pupil in this class, to have them ‘prove’ their learning to me.  They talked through every book, explaining the feedback, their next steps, how they are tracking their targets from piece to piece and how they are applying the feedback given to their learning.  You couldn’t question the progress, the impact or the purpose of what was being done; it was quite impressive, the ‘learning’ that was now being achieved within this one class.  There are now many examples, across the entire school, of this increased level of pupil achievement.

All of this does come with a note of caution – you can’t just jump on the newest craze and expect it to work in your school, unless the conditions are right.  We are coming to our second year of focusing on verbal feedback and I think all teachers are only now just really embedding it in daily practice and still trying to find the rhythm with it.  But, transformational change takes time……don’t forget.  Also, as I said, we question the ‘status quo’, therefore we research everything  before we adopt it across the school.  We test things in one class, talk to the children, establish what works and what doesn’t – lots of trial and error.  This is key – looking for what has greatest impact while questioning the ‘purpose’ of everything we do.

Verbal feedback is just one of the ways teachers are supported with their workload.  As a headteacher, I still love teaching.  I love getting into the class and it gives me a great insight into the children, where they are, what progress they are making and the ins and outs of the class.  As part of this, I give the teachers time.  I cover class so they have ‘time’ as subject leaders to understand their subjects across school, to look at the curriculum, etc.  I cover teachers in year 2 to mark their SATs, I give every teacher a day to write their reports.  I’ve even offered a ‘duvet day’ in the summer term for them to use as they like.  In fact, if any teacher comes to me and says that they require ‘time’ for any reason, I will consider it – in effort to support those people in school that work tirelessly for our children.  Time is crucial if things are to be done effectively.  I know how much time teachers work outside of school, how much extra they give, so supporting them with ‘time’ within the school hours just helps that bit extra to ensure they don’t burn out.

These are just a few ways, among others, that are in place in school to try to support our teachers.  Teachers are what make our schools amazing – we have to do what we can to look after them, so that every day they can come into school with passion, energy and enthusiasm to bring learning to life for every child in their classroom.

If you are a school leader, especially during these fraught times in education, I would seriously consider what processes you have in place to help support your team.  Ask them what would help and see what you could feasibly offer.  Taking care of your staff means that you are taking care of your pupils – it will help transform the culture of your school.

Feedback Policy Below…………..

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 “The major message seems to be that students-regardless of achievement level-prefer teachers to provide more feedback that is forward looking, related to the success of the lesson, and ‘just in time’ and ‘just for me’, ‘about my work’ (and not’about me’) (Hattie, 2012, p. 147).  He further justifies that, “It is not ‘sufficient simply to tell a student where they have gone wrong-misconceptions need to be explained and improvements for future work suggested’ (Hattie, 2012, p. 147).

“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.” (Hattie, 2012)

Purpose of Feedback:

In constructing this policy, staff have considered the following factors:

  • Why has work been marked?
  • Who is it for?
  • Can the child access the feedback given?
  • How does it promote learning?
  • Has it been effective?
  • Have children responded appropriately?
  • Is this marking necessary?

Key to Feedback:

As Sadler (1989) states, children must be clear about what they are doing well now, where they are aiming to get to and more crucially how they close the gap between the two (Black and Wiliam 1998).

When scrutinising feedback in school it has been apparent that teachers may mark because they feel it is expected by Ofsted, parents or Senior Leaders.  This is not the case.  We know from research and experience, that ‘marking’ can consume most of a teacher’s time outside of lessons; therefore we have heavily considered workload when drafting this policy.  When thinking about feedback and marking, if it is not useful for the pupils themselves, or for the teacher, then there is no reason to do it – we would question what the ‘purpose’ of it is.

Why is assessment so important at our school?

  • It gives meaningful feedback to the child
  • When done correctly maximises learning potential
  • Child is at the centre of learning
  • Helps children learn how to be the best learner they can be
  • Informs learning by highlighting areas for development, enabling the child to establish clear ‘next steps’
  • Is integral to the planning of future lessons and inform progress assessments (see assessment policy)
  • Facilitates and improves communication between job-share teachers, teachers and TAs.

What should feedback look like in the classroom?

  • Dialogue – everyone talking about their learning and next steps
  • Learning continually being evaluated and adapted
  • Ongoing observations of children
  • Children clear about where they are now, where they need to get to (next steps) and most crucially, how to ‘close the gap’ between the two.
  • Children as active learners
  • Questioning between pupils and adults
  • Regular learning conversations within lesson with individuals, groups and whole class
  • Children developing an understanding of what quality learning looks like using the language of purple learning
  • Ongoing modelling of and coaching in self/peer assessment.

Methods of Feedback:

Verbal with Written

Through observations, class discussions and individual pupil interviews, it has been established that verbal feedback is the most effective form of feedback in helping the child to understand where they have succeeded and what they must do to continue to improve. Its impact is maximised when followed by a summary conclusion recorded in an age appropriate manner enabling the student to track and monitor their own progress towards achieving their goal. Where possible, this summary of next steps should be written by the pupil during the feedback session.

The quality of the feedback is crucial; using higher order questioning, modelling and exemplification should not be reserved until the completion of a piece of work. Indeed, such feedback given whilst the work is ongoing enables the child to immediately experiment with, develop and implement the new targets.

“(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 the argument that verbal feedback is the most effective feedback given to a pupil as long as it is done correctly.

Verbal

Shares all the benefits of verbal with written but lacks the recorded element. This may be deployed in very informal situations and as immediate response.  We do not require teachers to write ‘VF’ in books where verbal feedback has been given but when followed up with pupils, they should be able to articulate what their next steps were, but more crucially how they can improve that piece of learning or apply it to another piece.

Written Marking Notes

This should be used with caution.  We have discussed the use of praise within this and ensuring we only praise when effort and children’s best has truly been put in related to individual pupils. To praise a piece of learning, house points should be awarded.   Where written feedback is used, it should be recorded in a manner suited to the ability of the child to ensure they have full comprehension of its meaning. Time must always be factored into a lesson for the child to read and respond to the comments – if comments are not read by the child, there is no purpose for them at all, unless they are intended for another adult (i.e. in a class share) Note: if followed by verbal feedback and explanation, its benefit can be enhanced

Child Led Feedback

The following forms of chid-led feedback are vital.  However, in every class, these types of feedback must be explicitly taught, reviewed and become an integral part of the learning process.

Self-Marking

Completed within the lesson, self-marking  provides children with immediate feedback enabling them to correct work, check methodology, seek advice or support and make improvements while the objective and process are most relevant.  We encourage daily maths self-marking to take place, giving the teacher time to use this feedback to plan the following lesson effectively.

Self-Review, Assessment and Evaluation

Marking their own work allows time to reflect upon their own progress towards achieving personal targets helping them to take control of their own learning.  For effective self-review to take place, they should review their work against set success criteria or previous next steps.  This also gives an opportunity to the learners to reflect on their learning, thinking through the learning traits that were necessary and consider how effectively they were used.  More importantly is how they then use this information to improve their learning.

Peer Feedback

Provides opportunities for children to write for a different audience, consider their own targets in more detail, develop the ‘language of learning’ required to progress in their own targets, and to see the work of others, exposing them to exemplification of higher standards of work.  Feedback may be verbal or written.  Dialogue about learning is an important skill that we seek to develop throughout school.  Where a child leaves feedback in another child’s book, it is helpful if the child-reviewer initials any comments.  As with the self-review, peer feedback should be given against a set of success criteria or previous next steps.

Hattie makes reference to Nuthall’s (2007) research which suggests that 80% of verbal feedback comes from peers (Hattie, p. 147, 2012).

“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, in order for peer feedback to be effective, it is essential that teachers model and coach pupils in these skills

Purple Pens

Where ability allows and appropriate to the context, children respond to all types of feedback by improving their work, indicated by the use of ‘Purple Pens’. They are also encouraged to use a purple pen to edit their work.

Ongoing Research:

We are continuing to experiment with different ways of improving the effectiveness of feedback. In particular, methods are being explored, analysed and developed to maximise opportunities for different types of verbal feedback within each lesson and to ensure that it is factored into weekly plans as an integral and effective part of teaching and learning.

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