Feedback meaningful feedback that cuts across the workload - Mr Beattie

Feedback is commonly defined as “actions taken by (an) external agent (or agents) to provide information regarding some aspect of one’s task performance.” (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996 p. 255)

Feedback to pupils comes in many shapes and sizes. There are many different strategies that can be used by a classroom teacher to give pupils effective feedback. Today's 'teaching technique Tuesday' will focus on one particular technique, which is 'whole class' feedback.

However, I think before we examine this strategy in more detail, it is important to first define what feedback is, as well as put in place a few feedback fundamentals that are critical no matter what feedback strategy you use with your pupils.

A somewhat unsophisticated paraphrasing of the quote above from Kluger & DeNisi tells us that - feedback is defined as the actions that we take, in order to give our students information, about elements of work they have completed for us.

Hattie and Timperley in their article, the power of feedback, explain feedback as a process. Reducing the discrepancy between current and desired understanding. In their model, feedback becomes effective when it sits alongside effective learning strategies and in turn, both of these (the strategies and the feedback) are used to try and reach, appropriate, challenging and specific goals. In this model, feedback answers three questions. 1) Where am I going? 2)How am I going? and 3)Where to next? The article was really interesting and gave me food for thought. It concludes, 'feedback can only build on something, it is of little use when there is no initial learning or surface information'. Before thinking about giving feedback, are our pupils aware of their goals - do they know where they are going? Are the learning strategies we are using sufficient to help them attain those goals?...if not maybe there are more important things that need addressed before feedback is introduced.

We also must remember that not all feedback will have a positive outcome. Sometimes instruction is much more effective when learning is inefficient or concepts have been poorly understood. Some studies have also found that feedback, if used incorrectly can make pupil performance worse. Any teacher wouldn't set out to worsen pupil performance intentionally, but we must be mindful of this pitfall and guard against it as best as we can. One way to be on our guard is to establish the reasons as to why we are giving feedback in the first place...

Dylan Wiliam writes that there are two main goals for giving feedback - Firstly to improve the work. Secondly to improve the student. Most of the time, the purpose of feedback is to improve the work of students on tasks they have not yet attempted.

At a recent TILE talk at Dundee University, Robin Macpherson addressed what it means for teachers to try and find some meaning in the absurdity of assessment. The talk focussed on using assessment creatively to allow for more effective feedback. One helpful piece of advice, and indeed a fundamental of giving feedback from Robin came in the form of an acronym which centred around the 90's rockers CAST.

For feedback to be useful for pupils it must be...

  • C - Clear
  • A - Actionable
  • S - Specific
  • T - Timely
So how can we best give clear, actionable, specific and timely feedback that will improve the future work of our students?

I am currently using a whole class feedback sheet. I haven't reinvented the wheel, I've constructed this from lots of great examples on line. I read the initial pieces of individual work and use a highlighter. The code is very simple, yellow lets the pupil know they are on the right track, pink means that they have something they need to correct and if they can't determine what that is (hopefully through the feedback), then they should speak to me to find out.

An example of the RMPS feedback sheet I use.

I then use a feedback sheet as shown above. This can be tailored to suit the feedback that is needed depending on your curricular area or level. This one is quite succinct.

This is an example of the completed sheet I would share with and then handback to pupils. Sometimes it might call for more depth, sometimes less, it depends on the task, question and level.

This sheet could be photocopied and simply handed back to pupils, however, I want the feedback to be used as a part of the learning process and acted upon (Actionable feedback). I would set aside time during the period to allow pupils to discuss the feedback, usually collaboratively and then make an action plan from this discussion, either on their own piece of work or as part of their class notes (where to next). This is teaching the pupil to be in charge of their learning and giving them a framework for self regulation. This process should happen within the week of receiving the work so that it is still fresh for the pupil (Timely feedback). In my opinion, feedback that is timely and concise is much more valuable than feedback that is of significant depth but given a month after the work was handed in.

For Harris staff there is a copy of this Whole Class Feedback sheet as a word document in the Learning and Teaching folder on our Staffshare drive. If anyone would like a copy as a word document please send me an email to ddtbeattie520@glow.sch.uk, or similarly if you have any questions, queries or feedback please get in touch.


Created with images by Dmitry Ratushny - "untitled image" • geralt - "positive can selbstbestimmung" • TayebMEZAHDIA - "construction sign under"

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