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Feedback for Learning

Posted by Jennifer Jackson on 15 June 2015

When we are truly focussed on accelerating literacy learning, students and teachers need to be on the journey together, and what better way than for student engagement and motivation to be extended than the all-important effects of student-driven, teacher delivered feedback.

The idea of using assessment FOR learning, as well as OF learning (Birenbaum  et al,  2006) is all about integrating feedback into a larger conversation with our students so they are clear about how they can improve and how we, as teachers, can accelerate their literacy needs. 

According to Marzano, Pickering and Pollock in "Classroom Instruction that Works" (2001), feedback needs to be: "corrective in nature: tell students how they did in relation to specific levels of knowledge; timely and specific to a criterion".

Student A receives his test back, the actual writing of it a distant memory to him no: it was two weeks ago and he, along with the rest of the class, have moved on to the next big idea to be learned, understood and once again, tested. He reads the grade. He sees the words from his teacher, noting the heading 'to improve'. He places the inside his subject folio and asks what the next task will be. His teacher is already onto the third question and he is behind!

In this next example, the teacher creates many opportunities for the student to make decisions based around evidence from past pieces of work, the mark scheme, the task itself and thus to become cognitively engaged, meaning there is a 'willingness to exert the mental effort needed to comprehend challenging concepts and accomplish difficult tasks in different domains' (Guthrie, Wigfield and You, 2012).

Student B has got his test back within days of when it was written. He takes note of his grade on the outside of the folio and then is directed about what notes to take for feedback.

  • He finds the general comments at the end of the test, highlighting the key word.
  • He reads through the paper and finds comments from the teacher to highlight
  • He writes down questions, concerns and clarifications based on his work and teacher responses
  • He creates three goals based around three areas of the mark scheme, and one about the product of his efforts for the year, remembering that as Sadler and Black & William say: 'Students can only achieve learning goals if they understand these goals, assume some ownership of them, and can assess progress (cited in Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2007).

The teacher calls him for an individual feedback meeting, where he asks her the questions he has created from the words she has written in and around the paper.  This conversation creates a quality teacher-student relationship, as well as giving the student some autonomy in self-efficacy. The questions are to do with:

  1. Clarifying what was meant by the teacher comment
  2. Direct relationship to rubric/mark scheme
  3. Connections to task requirements mode, audience, purpose, outcomes
  4. Opportunities to re-sit aspects of the text to put feedback into practise

They then go back over his previous results and goals, looking at areas for improvement, as well as celebrations. His teacher knows she needs to be more about setting a supportive tone creating challenge, not sugar coating the bad news either side of constructive comments. It is always worthwhile taking the time to reset the relationship, so he trusts his teacher.  They set goals and intentions, based on the feedback and teacher's prior knowledge.

When teachers give 'specific direction to students about the effectiveness of their strategy for performing work, and help students set realistic goals in their learning domain', then the steps towards performing academic tasks successfully [such as reading comprehension] improve dramatically (Guthrie et al, 2012). Many have written about the positive impact of the 'quantity' of feedback (the simplest prescription for improving education must be 'dollops of feedback' John Hattie, as cited in Marzano et al) but creating trusting and supportive conversations in directing students to higher order learning goals the quality - is the optimum chemistry!


Reference List:
Birenbaum, M., Breuer, K., Cascallar, E., Dochy F., Dori. Y., & Ridgway. J., (2006). A Learning Integrated Assessment System, Educational Research Review (1, 2006, 61-67)
Guthrie, J. T., Wigfield, A., & You, W., (2012). Instructional Contexts for Engagement and Achievement in Reading. Handbook of Research on Student Engagement. DOI 10. 1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_29
Marzano, R. J., Pickering D. J., & Pollock J. E., (2001). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement , ASCD, Virginia, USA.
Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D., (2007). Formative Assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education: 31:2, 199-218, DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090

Author: Jennifer Jackson
Tags: Feedback

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