Climbing The Hill
Building Learning Through Expansive Feedback - A Primary Perspective
“The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback. The simplest prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops’ of feedback”
Professor John Hattie (Influences on Student Learning)
Whist OFSTED no longer pass judgement on the quanity or type of feedback provided with pupils, there is an expectation that whatever policy a school uses for embedding effective feedback and formative assessment, this is applied consistently across a school and has the desired impact on outcomes for pupils. This includes schools delivering their philosophy about learning which incorporates high quality feedback (oral and written), and that feedback is placed at the heart of teaching and learning practices. (See below).
Formative assessment pretty much covers all aspects of outstanding teaching and encompasses all strategies designed to raise standards including:
- collaborative learning
- peer assessment / self assessment
- oral feedback and written feedback (feedback marking)
In this blog, I want to connect the importance of effective teaching and learning with feedback, linking together a number of principles and beliefs that I have shared in previous blogs. (See below)
There are some key messages that I have tried to make as visible as possible. Here goes....
Catch Them Early and Build a Language for Learning!
Building a culture of feedback has to involve all pupils from the earliest age phase. Introducing the language of feedback from EYFS in fun ways embeds the culture and helps pupils feel successful for their efforts and enjoyment of learning. Children, even as young as 4 and 5, will use words like ‘determination’ and ‘effort’ and build levels of resilience which will shape their capacity for learning. See the summary from Dweck’s work below:
In the photographs below, pupils from the nursery are encouraged to comment on their learning and each others’. This takes the form of informal discussions, circle time games and focused adult pupil teaching sequences. Children are praised for being good feedback partners and are clear about the skills involved.
The outcome is that children, even in EYFS become used to the language of feedback and are responsive to next step learning tasks...
Create a Learning Environment for Feedback to Flourish
Click here for an example of a Learning Environment Policy.
The learning environment is critical to the success of enabling quality feedback. This takes on many forms, including:
- supporting children’s understanding in the process of learning
- providing a visual resource and a reference to scaffold learning
- supporting current learning and pertinent prior learning
- representing the work in progress, the learning journey steps
- modelling specific skills for children to reference, including children’s examples.
- helping indepedent learning
- showing progress in learning concepts or steps
For children to develop the language for learning we want and to see visually the relationship between topic choices and learning, it helps to provide an environment in which the vocabularly, questions asked and reference points for learning are clear and transparent. See examples below:
Plan for Quality Questioning
Learning has to be challenging and give children something to discuss or respond to and the planning for questioning in lessons is critical to this success. Questioning needs to be planned for at the beginning of the learning sequences, as well as it responds to the flow of learning mid lesson through incidental opportunities to probe and explore. The relationship between the incidental and planned questioning guides and facilitates deeper learning. For both to happen though, it has to be modelled, planned in advance and rehearsed multiple times. (See below)
When the learning journey is planned in advance, with clear outcomes and expectations in mind, this also focuses children in being able to better assess against the lesson success criteria
Ensure Pupils are the First and Most Enduring Evaluators of Learning
Only around 40 percent of what happens in classrooms is seen and visible to teachers (Graham Nuthall). Building on the work of Ron Berger, we have got to ensure pupils are more involved in evaluating their own learning and that of their peers. When pupils see themselves as evaluators of their own learning, it has the double advantage of:
- Making learning processes visible and tangible, ensuring teachers see the misconceptions or gaps in learning.
- Capitalising on peer collaboration and pupil critique, building a common language for learning improvement.
Some top tips for ensuring children's useful learning mistakes are visible include:
- Children using thinking bubbles to express their thinking processes
- Feedback responses in a different colour to track their progress, thinking and improvements
- Peer critique the expectation and train pupils to use the language of evaluation.
See examples below:
Nothing matters more than having a whole school consistent approach to feedback. To achieve this, there are a number of key strategies to encourage:
- Have a clear feedback marking policy. See an example from Foxfield and Woodhill Primary Schools here
- Make shared displays of feedback marking around the school, especially in visible spaces.
- Moderate the quality of feedback marking using learning walks and staff meetings.
- Celebrate great feedback marking and its impact using rolling photographic walls.
Linked to consistency, ensure that staff understand the ‘shape’ of feedback so that children are clear about how to respond and what is expected of them. See the examples below as a model for developing consistency:
Make Time for Feedback and Ensure Pupils Have Something Worthy of Response
Quality written feedback is wasted teacher time if pupils have not responded to it. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing great teacher feedback that goes un-checked or has no pupil response. Lost learning and wasted teacher time! Time for pupils to respond has to be built into the school day. Their responses and being challenged to think further will enhance their learning. There are so many ways to ensure teacher feedback is responded to, including:
- Early morning work
- Peer assessment in the plenary / mini plenary linked to the success criteria
- Guided reading or guided writing time to model how to respond to feedback or model this with the whole class
- Use of TAs to support groups of pupils in responding during independent learning time
When marking, provide follow up questions linked to the skills children have been learning. Make questions open ended where possible. Link the questions to knowledge, skills and application of skills but remember, the questions linked to application will enable the most memorable learning! For example,
What is the largest decimal number you can make using the digits 512?
What is the smallest decimal number you can make using the same digits?
Find the difference between the two numbers.
See examples below:
Involve Everyone in Evaluating Feedback
Investing in a culture of feedback and developing consistency is hard work and a real achievement. It pays massive dividends in transforming the culture of a school so make sure you shout about successes and involve the whole school community.
Here are some top tips:
- Use the school council and governing body to review successes as part of their focused school improvement support.
- During learning walks, check pupils’ understanding to see if they know their ‘next steps’. This is more important than pupils knowing levels!
- Use assemblies as a way for children to celebrate how their feedback has impacted on the learning of other pupils from their classes or phase teams.
- Ensure all displays contain links to feedback marking and the impact it has had on learning.
- Involve parents and share with them the efforts of all staff. Establish similar systems for sharing learning successes with parents. (See examples here).