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The foggy world of "Effective Feedback"

If we are going to ensure excellent pupil progress then it is important that our students understand WHEN and HOW they are making that progress. They should be able to articulate, explain and provide a rationale for the progress that they are making based on the feedback (summative and formative) being given to them by teachers.

But what IS "effective feedback?" How can we develop our usage of feedback to help with pupil progress?

If you google "effective feedback" the images that come up on google are so contrasting and present such a range of different ways in which to approach it, how can we know which is the correct way?

For example - Is this an example of "effective feedback?

There are arguments for and against, but even if it is deemed "effective", is it sustainable for a teacher who has to mark the books of 90 Year 9s to have to provide comments of this length?

Our Teaching + Learning Group wanted to explore this further and therefore took advantage of the opportunity to look at four specific questions:

1. What is preventing the feedback from translating into progress?

2. When do we need to give it? (KS3, KS4 + KS5)

3. What makes a good comment? What is/would be the archetypal feedback for each department?

4. What alternative forms of feedback can we use instead of comments?

A wide variety of comments came out of the discussion and a couple of strategies that came out of it are as follows:

The full outcomes of the meeting are not listed here as they are being used to inform the next T+L session in April. These will then be shared on the blog.

  • Re-name EBI’s à “Next Steps”: Why not rename EBI with ‘Next Steps’. This will reduce the negative associations some pupils could have with receiving lots of improvement based feedback. Their learning is constantly a work in progress and the language we use is important in helping them see the benefits and engage with the feedback given.

  • Add a “I need to…” section Why not add an extra section to your WWW/EBI feedback and leave space for a student led ‘I need to…’ reflection. This doesn’t add any extra work to your marking load. Instead it encourages students to engage and actively reflect with the feedback they’ve been given. They set a target for themselves based on the feedback you’ve given. This can then be written next to your feedback but also at the top of their next piece of work, encouraging to take more responsibility for their learning. It also allows us to hold them accountable for their targets when you next mark their work. You could take this even further and get the students to then record those 'I need to...' in the front/back of their book in one area so that they are able to see all of their targets. Here is a good example of that:

  • Be Specific! Ask a student to re-draft or re-do a piece of work/paragraph/graph etc, but rather than leaving it there, add a specific instruction to help them achieve the task you’ve set. For example: “Re-do paragraph 2 and this time make sure you include X, you measure Y and you state Z correctly”

Of course we have to acknowledge that teachers deliver feedback in different way, and ways that work for their students and their subject. Feedback cannot all be the same. What we can do however is encourage consistency and common practice and this is the the route we are taking at Putney High as part of our wider journey and exploration around effective feedback.

NOTE: The final example came from the excellent blog by Tom Sherrington - "Five Ways of Giving Effective Feedback in Actions":

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