Getting feedback right

For the sake of convenience I’ve collated and condensed my recent series of posts on getting feedback right, and they are now available as a single download. It’s not intended to be a complete or exhaustive exploration of everything to do with feedback or as a necessarily right; instead I hope it provokes discussion and that it’s useful for classroom teachers in considering why and how they might go about providing their pupils with feedback on their work more thoughtfully.

If you do find it useful, I’d love to know.

20 Responses to Getting feedback right

  1. RM says:

    Your comments causes me to think a little more deeply about the topic of feedback. I was reminded me about the importance of the need for focused study in order to implement a teaching practice well and correctly.

    I think, at times, that in education we “half-way” adopt ideas and don’t really study the
    practice to ensure effectiveness and fidelity. We kind of jump on a bandwagon without study. However, I know we can also study too long and never implement, which is
    also detrimental.

    The topic of your post, feedback, provided more depth and meaning about the use of this tool. Without really determining how to best utilize the practice, it can do little good.

    It goes back to the power and importance of the teacher. If he/she adopts a
    technique without really knowing why, it is just a band aid. It’s
    frustrating that we, in the education field, “slap on” practices (anchor charts,
    vocabulary study, workshop) without thinking about the good intent behind
    the practices and thus don’t fully realize the potential of the practice.

    The shortchanging of the effective practice is like binging on junk food. It looks good and satisfies for a moment but does not lead to long term health. I’m wondering if the topic of feedback is one such topic that offers great potential but is used carelessly.

  2. Interesting questions posed about feedback David. The defining argument of marking versus demarcation in children’s books is also worth raising as teachers can so often feel the pressure to be seen to offer written feedback to students to indicate they have marked their quota of books. Marking that leads the student to respond and demonstrate a deepening of their understanding is then held up as good progress and good practice. Your article develops the core purpose and impact of marking and feedback and is very thought provoking. It is so easy to fall into a habitual procedure in providing feedback to students rather than asking a pedagogical question relating to the generic worth of the feedback on our students.

    I will share your article with my teachers, thank you.

  3. […] For the sake of convenience I’ve collated and condensed my recent series of posts on getting feedback right, and they are now available as a single download. It’s not intended to be a complete or exhaustive exploration of everything to do with feedback or as a necessarily right; instead I hope it provokes discussion and that  […]

  4. I think David’s analysis of how feedback can provide clarity, increase aspiration, or increase effort makes sense, and the models are helpful. But I can’t help thinking there’s more to it. Sometimes, what a student needs is a (metaphorical) kick up the backside: “You haven’t put any effort into doing this work, so I’m not going to put any effort into marking it.” Sometimes the support we give to students may be emotional rather than technical—getting them to believe they can do something they themselves don’t believe they can. That’s why I don’t think that feedback should be descriptive. I think it should be productive—the only interesting thing that feedback does is what it does to the learner, and specifically whether it prompts them to do what we want them to do (raise aspiration, or increase effort, according to the situation), which is why I suggest that feedback should, in general, be more work for the recipient than the donor. Another thing to remember is that much feedback is one-to-one tuition (I don’t know of a single teacher that can mark two books at the same time) and much of the time the student isn’t even listening. So if it’s worth our while as teachers giving students written feedback, it is worth taking lesson time to get them to respond to it. So, as a general rule, I advise teachers not to give feedback unless the first 10 to 15 minutes of the next lesson is allocated to students responding to the feedback.
    Moreover, a great deal of marking feedback seems to me to be done more for proving that the student’s work is being marked than improving learning. Teachers tell me that they have to be able to convince their SMT and Ofsted that they are doing their marking, but there are other ways to do this. I have seen many primary school teachers give feedback to their students orally, but then require their students to back to their seats and make notes about the discussion which (a) develops literacy skills; (b) creates a mnemonic for the student about the substance of the exchange; and (c) proves the teacher has been doing their job. I have seen one early years teacher give oral feedback to students and then get the students to go to the video pod to record their immediate reactions to the feedback which the student or the parent can access at a later date. There are much more effective ways of structuring feedback interventions than just marking students’ work.
    Finally, my thinking on feedback has been greatly influenced by a high-school science teacher in the Hunter’s Point area of San Francisco. He only ever awards one grade—an A. But he’s not a soft marker. If your work isn’t worth an A he won’t give you an A, but he will tell you what you need to do to get an A. In other words, his message is simply all students can do excellent work. The question is what support to you need to get there. What is really interesting is that this basic insight has been developed into a psychometric model by Alastair Pollitt and Ayshea Ahmed, which they term the “support model”.

  5. Isaac Crandell-Tanner says:

    Dr. William Glasser’s work on ‘Quality Schools’ has as a cornerstone of its approach a principle similar to ‘only A grades’. Check out http://www.wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach/quality-schools

    I’ve run a similar process for individual tests or assignments (with positive results) but I’ve never implemented it across a whole course.

  6. […] post really got me thinking about what it is that I need to do to improve in this area.  In this post, […]

  7. I am a bit late to the game on this whole conversation but I found it really useful in preparing some INSET on feedback recently, thank you. I am unclear, however, about the studies on raising aspiration and how difficult it is to do this. I wonder how these studies measured the impact of feedback to raise aspiration. Every teacher has had the experience of having a little chat with a student who lacks confidence in an area to point out their potential and suddenly that student raises their game and believes they can achieve. Surely that personal intervention is the mainstay of teaching.

  8. […] Force-fed feedback: is less more? Why AfL might be wrong Getting feedback right […]

  9. […] written before about getting feedback right – basically it boils down to understanding that it should be concerned with clarity, effort […]

  10. […] Getting feedback right – David Didau […]

  11. […] written before about the need to get feedback right, and have suggested that there are really only three reasons to give feedback: to provice […]

  12. […] The report also makes the point that feedback needs to be specific. Of course it does, but I would also say that specificity is not enough. To avoid the unintended consequences, feedback can have it needs to provide clarification, get students to try harder and aim higher. If you’re interested, I’ve written some suggestions on getting feedback right. […]

  13. […] and here. I’ve also written extensively about feedback; maybe the two most useful posts are here and here. Also, there are separate chapters on both assessment and feedback in the new book What […]

  14. […] School are articulated clearly here and there is a wealth of other useful material around (notably here). This method has been widely influential and has been very useful for me this year, resulting in […]

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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